Alligator for sale leads to charges

Police: Man broke game, gun laws

By Alex Bridges — abridges@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER — Authorities accuse a West Virginia man of trying to sell an alligator he advertised on Craigslist to a law enforcement officer.

Justin Allen Brannon, 20, of High View, also stands charged with four counts of possession of firearms by a person convicted of a violent felony, according to records with the Frederick County General District Court.

Brannon remains free after posting a $10,000 secured bond, and is scheduled to appear for an arraignment hearing in the court July 25.

A conservation officer with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries arrested and charged Brannon on Monday on one count of selling wild game after a special agent answered a Craigslist advertisement for an alligator, according to court

The agent with the department called the phone number listed with the advertisement and set up an appointment to buy the alligator Monday, according to a criminal complaint filed by Conservation Officer K.G. Bilwin. The unidentified agent arrived at 324 Cross Creek Lane, just east of Shawneeland, shortly before 6:30 p.m. and Brannon showed the officer the alligator. Brannon stated the animal, an American alligator, was shipped from Florida approximately 41⁄2 months earlier, according to the complaint. The document did not give more of a description of the alligator, such as its size or age.

“During a conversation between the SA and Justin, the SA told Justin that it was illegal to sell [the alligator] on four separate occasions,” the complaint states. “Justin stated he did not care and that if someone turned him in so be it.”

The agent asked Brannon if he would take less than the $300 advertised price and the suspect told him to make an offer, according to the complaint. The agent offered to pay $199.99 and then Brannon said “how about $200.” The agent paid $200 to Brannon in $20 bills, the complaint states.

The agent saw deer antlers on the back porch of the residence and a conversation about hunting ensued, according to the complaint.

“Justin then volunteered information on 36 felonies which he had been charged with in W.Va.,” the complaint states. “Justin said he was sentenced to prison for those crimes and charged with malicious wounding while in prison.”

The agent then asked Brannon what kind of guns he used to hunt, and the suspect replied a shotgun and rifle on his property, according to the complaint.

“Justin said he had to be careful when hunting because of the game wardens,” the complaint states. “Justin stated that he carries a bow with him so that if he was checked by a game warden he could throw the guns down and act as if he was hunting with the bow.”

After the agent asked Brannon if he had any guns he wanted to get rid of, the suspect went inside the residence and came back out with two pistols — a Colt .38 revolver and a Colt .357, according to the complaint. The agent asked Brannon if he wanted to sell them but the suspect said he would have to think about a price.

The agent contacted Bilwin, who responded to the residence, checked Brannon’s background information and determined the suspect had a felony conviction. Bilwin arrested Brannon at approximately 7:15 p.m. After Brannon consented to a search of the residence Bilwin recovered two rifles — an M1 Garand and a Winchester 30-30.

Virginia code identifies the firearm charges and selling wild game as class 6 felonies punishable by a prison term of one to five years or up to 12 months in jail.