Law & Order: Reptile Unit

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Photo: istockphoto

Populace: If we may, we'd like, momentarily, to turn your attention away from the AIG financial-products executives whose machinations have wreaked havoc on our economy and point you toward another group of shifty salesmen who stand accused of peddling something even more dangerous than credit default swaps. What have these snake-oil salesman been packaging and selling to the American people? Actual snakes. Like, poisonous ones. Over at the Times, A.G. Sulzberger the Younger reports on the breakup of a local reptile-smuggling ring that sold to everyone from "collectors who paid thousands of dollars for hard-to-get specimens" to "Chinese consumers with a well-known taste for snapping turtle meat."

The smugglers moved their goods across borders using secret compartments, a Maryland meat processing plant and the help of a corrupt Louisiana turtle farm. Their lucrative product: rattlesnakes, snapping turtles and salamanders.This was the portrait of a trade in illegal reptiles and amphibians that New York State environmental authorities painted on Thursday, when the two-year undercover investigation called Operation Shellshock ended with criminal charges against 18 people.


Let us get this straight: They've been preparing for this sting operation for two years? We're convinced: Life is just like The Wire and all of the best cops have been stuck in the Reptile unit when they should really have been working at the SEC.

Reptile Smuggling Ring Is Broken, Authorities Say [City Room/NYT]