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New York man charged after king cobras, hundreds of turtles found in home, officials say

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A New Yorkstate man was charged after authorities seized hundreds of reptiles — including three king cobra snakes — in the "largest seizure of illegal reptiles in state history."

William Engelder, 71, was hit was a slew of charges after authorities searched his home in August 2018, the state's Department of Environmental Conservation announced Wednesday.

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Wildlife investigators received a tip "about a man harboring illegal animals" that led them to Engelder's home in Allegany, a city roughly 90 miles south of Niagra Falls, officials said in a news release.

Authorities said they found several reptiles at Engelder's home, including 292 turtles — some of which are considered threatened. Officials said 20 boxes of "various species of turtle eggs were also seized."

New York man charged after king cobras, hundreds of turtles found in home, officials say

Wildlife investigators said they seized hundreds of reptiles from William Engelder's New York state home in August 2018. (New York State Department of Environmental Conservation)

In addition to turtles, investigators found three king cobra snakes — one of the most deadly species in the world — and six Gila monster venomous lizards.

"When public safety and the well-being of wildlife are jeopardized by reckless care, DEC is committed to holding violators responsible," Commissioner Basil Seggos said in a statement. "I commend DEC staff for helping to bring these charges and look forward to continuing to work with the Cattaraugus County District Attorney and our law enforcement partners to uphold New York's strong environmental laws."

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Engelder faces felony charges of first-degree reckless endangerment and the illegal sale of wildlife. He was also charged with several misdemeanors and 26 counts of illegally possessing and transporting reptiles, and 283 counts of illegally possessing a wild animal as a pet.

If convicted on all charges, Engelder faces up to a maximum fine of $104,000 and possibly 33 years in prison.

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