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Phenix City man charged with selling venomous snakes online

PHENIX CITY (AP) — A Phenix City man has been arrested for allegedly selling highly venomous, non-indigenous snakes on the Internet.

Officers from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources arrested William Gornto, 47, after officers obtained a search warrant for his residence, the agency said in a statement Tuesday. Tips from citizens led to the arrest Oct. 3 and officers seized 35 Western Diamondback, 19 Prairie and three Black Tail rattlesnakes, the agency said. The conservation department's regulations make it illegal to sell, offer for sale or possess venomous reptiles without a permit.

"If these non-indigenous, highly poisonous snakes had escaped and began to breed, it could pose a serious threat to native wildlife," said Allan Andress, law enforcement chief for the agency's wildlife division.

Andress also said those types of snakes pose a severe threat to people, especially in populated areas.

The snakes are now safely contained at an undisclosed location, conservation officials said. Gornto faces a maximum fine of $500 per count and six months in jail if convicted. He did not immediately return a phone call to his home for comment.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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