Officials: Animal control officer had 850 snakes at Shirley home

Brookhaven Town officials say an animal control officer ran an illegal reptile business in his Shirley home while on disability leave. Videojournalist: Chuck Fadely (Sept. 19, 2013)

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Authorities investigating a Brookhaven Town employee regarding alleged disability fraud were stunned to find 850 snakes, along with other exotic animals, in the man's detached two-car garage Thursday, officials said.

Officials raided the home of Richard Parrinello in Shirley after a monthlong workers' compensation probe, stemming from allegations that the town animal control officer had a second job while on disability leave, officials said.

Parrinello, 44, a full-time town employee for seven years, was cooperating with authorities and had not been arrested, town officials said. He faces possible termination from his town job, pending a hearing.

Roy Gross, chief of the Suffolk Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said he was astounded when he visited the garage on Auborn Avenue. "I personally have never seen this many reptiles in one area," he said.

Two 6-foot-long Burmese pythons removed from the garage will be shipped to an out-of-state animal sanctuary, Gross said. Burmese pythons, which are illegal to own in New York without a permit, can grow to 18 feet, officials said.

Authorities could not say what would happen to the other animals, most of which were legal to own but not legal to sell from a home without a permit, officials said.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Officials said Parrinello's stock included various types of snakes, tarantulas and baby turtles. The animals had been fed and appeared to be healthy, officials said. Authorities also discovered three small frozen alligator carcasses, turtle shells, a dead bullfrog and a freezer full of dead mice, which were to be fed to the reptiles.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation issued Parrinello tickets for owning the Burmese pythons and possessing alligator parts without a permit. He is due in First District Court in Central Islip on Oct. 23 to face those charges, each of which carries a $250 fine, a DEC spokesman said.

Town officials said he faces multiple counts of violating town codes by running a reptile sales business, SnakeMan's Exotics, at his home without a permit.

A man who answered the phone at SnakeMan's Exotics Thursday told a reporter, "Your facts are all wrong, and I have no comment. Have a good day." He did not identify himself before he hung up. Trucks in the home's driveway Thursday bore vanity license plates with the words "SNAKEVAN" and "SSSSNAKE."

Brookhaven officials said Parrinello had been on disability leave since May, because of carpal tunnel syndrome in his wrists and hands. In a video made by an undercover investigator hired by the town, Parrinello "talked about having 700 snakes and $500,000 in inventory," said deputy town attorney David Moran, at a news conference outside the home.

Neighbors said they were shocked. "That's terrible, man. I never even thought of him doing stuff like that," said Ruben Alcazar, 38. "He seemed like a nice, quiet guy."

You also may be interested in: