South Beach Snake Man Cited for Ripping Off Tourists

To walk along Ocean Drive is to be transported into an alternate reality. There are street brawls, $80 margarita "specials," and some of the most beautiful art deco buildings in Florida. If you are lucky, you will see pet monkeys wearing jean shorts, shots served for breakfast, and bikini-clad women twerking atop Lamborghinis.

You'll also find a number of weirdos holding actual Burmese pythons, perhaps Florida's most infamous invasive species. Apparently, multiple people regularly troll around South Beach with snakes, which is supposedly something you can do if you have the proper license.

Of course, not everyone has the proper licensing. Last week, investigators with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) cracked down on illegal operators on Ocean Drive, where they slapped one man with a $500 fine.

An FWC report says that on multiple occasions, 68-year-old Samuel Plut was seen handing over his Burmese python to tourists and then stepping away. When he returned, he would hit the tourists up for money.

"[Samuel] was observed receiving money, being paid for allowing people to have the snake on them," a December 12 incident report reads. (Here's an old photo of Plut posing with one of his pythons.)
click to enlarge
Samuel Plut
courtesy of Miami-Dade Corrections
FWC issued Plut a warning, calling his methods "a threat to public safety." Miami Beach code enforcement officers also fined him for conducting business without a license.

According to court records, Plut has been arrested at least twice in cases involving wild animals. In 2009, he was picked up for possession of a venomous reptile, a misdemeanor. The following year, he was charged with another misdemeanor for the exhibition of wildlife without a permit. Both cases were ultimately dismissed.

New Times was unable to reach Plut for comment.

In the future, more animal handlers could be cited for fishy wildlife violations on Ocean Drive: According to FWC, an investigator has been assigned to go after other illegal operators in South Beach.
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Jessica Lipscomb is the former news editor of Miami New Times.

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