A grand jury has indicted a Levittown pet store owner and his nephew on animal-related charges after an investigation that led to the September seizure of several dangerous reptiles, authorities said Monday.
Reptile Rage owner Douglas DelleCave, 50, of Seaford, and his nephew Anthony Cammarata, 27, of Levittown, face charges of illegal possession, transportation and commercialization of dangerous wildlife, according to the Nassau district attorney's office.
Prosecutors said the commercialization charges are felonies, and have alleged that for several years some of the reptiles were imported from Florida, where they are legal, to New York, where they are illegal.
But DelleCave's attorney, Marc Gann, said the charges are "overblown," describing his client as "the go-to guy" on Long Island for reptiles. Gann said his client has assisted authorities with cases involving the creatures in the past.
"I think that there's probably a misunderstanding about the types of reptiles he possessed and what he was doing with them," the Mineola defense lawyer said in an interview. "And I hope and expect that that will be sorted out and resolved as we proceed with the criminal litigation here."
DelleCave, of Seaford, pleaded not guilty to the charges against him at a Nov. 30 arraignment before a judge released him on his own recognizance. Authorities said he is facing up to 1-1/3 to 4 years in prison if convicted of the top count.
Gann said some of the charges are connected to animal licenses that allegedly expired, adding that his client had applied to renew licenses and "was always trying to be in compliance with what the DEC was looking to regulate."
Cammarata appeared in Nassau County Court on Monday for his arraignment, and prosecutors said a judge continued his bail at $15,000 cash. His attorney did not return a later phone message.
Authorities charged the men after an investigation that included the Sept. 10 discovery in the business owner's store of a six-foot-long Asian monitor lizard in an allegedly unlocked glass enclosure.
Prosecutors are now alleging DelleCave didn't have a permit for that animal or several other exotic animals, saying on Monday that they seized 83 animals in all.
During the store raid, officials from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the state Department of Environmental Conservation also found shipping labels addressed to DelleCave's home, leading them to get a search warrant for his property, authorities said at the time.
Authorities said they charged Cammarata after stopping him as he left his uncle's home in a Lincoln. He agreed to a have his car searched, according to authorities, who said they found three Gila monsters, an American alligator, five bearded lizards and two dwarf caimans inside the vehicle.
The Nassau district attorney's office said Monday that authorities also seized a handgun, shotgun, ammunition and controlled substances from the Lincoln.
Cammarata's attorney previously told Newsday that nothing in the Lincoln belonged to his client, who was picking up the car for a family member.
In addition to the animal offenses, Cammarata faces felony weapon charges and drug-related misdemeanors. Authorities said he is facing up to 3-1/2 to 15 years in prison if convicted of the top count.