New York state and county authorities say that a Long Island animal control officer was illegally housing and selling hundreds of snakes and other reptiles from his own home.
Newsday reports that Richard Parrinello, 44, reportedly kept 850 snakes in his Brookhaven garage, including two 6-foot-long Burmese pythons, which are illegal in the state.
Unofficial estimates say the entire collection of snakes, turtles and tarantulas is worth about $500,000.
Deputy town attorney David J. Moran said authorities made the discovery while probing whether Parrinello was committing workers’ compensation fraud.
He had also been running a website, since suspended, called Snake Man Exotics.
Suffolk County SPCA Chief Roy Gross said the two pythons will be removed from the residence and sent to an out-of-state sanctuary. However, the fate of the rest of the reptiles remains undecided.
“I’d never seen so many snakes in one place before, even in a zoo,” Gross told the New York Post. “We were called in to see whether there was an animal cruelty or neglect [but] the animals appeared to be healthy and well-cared for,” he told the Post.
Gross told a local CBS affiliate that the pythons were being handled separately from the other reptiles, because they are particularly dangerous. He noted that two escaped pythons in Canada recently strangled to death a pair of young children.
Parrinello, who owns two vehicles with vanity plates reading “SNAKEVAN” and “SSSSNAKE,” is reportedly cooperating with officles from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the state's Department of Environmental Conservation.
He is likely to lose his job with the county if he is found guilty of illegally housing and selling the creatures.
Long Island has made recent efforts to convince individuals to hand over illegally owned reptiles, including hosting a Reptile Amnesty Day after more than a dozen baby alligators were discovered in the wild.