A popular animal expert and former television show host who admitted to selling and shipping two endangered reptiles said Tuesday that he had no idea what he did was illegal.
Donald Schultz, 35, the former host of "Wild Recon" on Animal Planet, pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to violating the Endangered Species Act by offering to sell, and actually selling, two live desert monitor lizards (Varanus griseus) in interstate commerce, according to the U.S. District Attorney's Office.
Schultz admitted that on July 29, 2010, he sold the lizards to an undercover agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who was posing as a prospective buyer, and shipped the lizards from Los Angeles to Buffalo, New York.
Schultz told NBC4 that he kept the lizards as pets, but decided to sell them because he was moving.
Host Says Exotic Reptile Sale Was "Misunderstanding"
"Someone contacted me and asked to buy them from me," said Schultz. "In retrospect, it was a stupid thing to do. I had no idea it was against the law."
Schultz sold the lizards for $2,500 without being issued a permit to sell the animals, which are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
Reptile expert Jay Brewer, who runs the Reptile Zoo in Fountain Valley, said the rarer the animal, the more expensive.
"They can range from $500 to $25,000 dollars," said Brewer.
Schultz, who had more than 11,400 followers on Twitter Tuesday night, tweeted this message to his followers: "My apologies to anyone Ive disappointed. I intend to use this opportunity to do more, work harder & let my actions speak louder than my words."
"Absolutely a lesson learned and a cautionary tale," he told NBC4.
According to the plea agreement, Schultz has agreed to pay a fine of $6,000, restitution of $3,000, and to perform 200 hours of community service. This case was investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, according to the U.S. District Attorney's Office.
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