ORLANDO, Fla. - It's not something you want to hear at the airport.
On Wednesday a man, identified as Mateus Dal Maso, 27, tried boarding his flight back home to Brazil, but never made it on the plane—and neither did his snakes. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers say X-ray machines at the Orlando International Airport spotted the reptiles in the man's two checked bags.
[PICTURES: Snakes found in luggage at OIA]
When agents opened the luggage, they found 27 individually wrapped snakes hidden inside two speakers. Maso told officers he had purchased the snakes at the Reptile Breeders' Expo in Daytona this past weekend and was trying to get them back to Brazil.
The snakes included one Ball Python, seven Boa Constrictors, and 19 various color morph corn snakes, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission officials.
On Thursday, Mateus Dal Maso, Jr. pleaded guilty to attempting to export 27 snakes. He was sentenced to one year of supervised release when within the geographical confines of the United States (must report to probation within 72 hours of arrival), two days incarceration with two days served, a $25 fee, and a fine of $6,000, FWC said.
Maso told authorities he was going to bring the snakes, which he valued at $10,000, back to Brazil to breed them for commercial purposes. The arrest came as a result of a multi-agency law enforcement detail dubbed Operation Snake Pit.
"Wildlife Smugglers face a virtual gauntlet of techniques agencies use to interdict their illicit shipments," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Resident Agent in Charge Andrew Aloise in a release. "This seizure was the result of multi-agency interdiction targeting efforts by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agents, Customs and Border Protection Officers, and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission investigators."
"Who would go through the process to think of all that?" said Brittany Webb, an Alabama resident who flew into OIA Thursday night. "I guess he really wanted his snakes."
Webb says the only place she wants to see snakes on a plane is the movies.
"I hope the next plane I'm on doesn't have snakes," she said.
The snakes are being held by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at an undisclosed care facility, according to FWC.
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