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Man sentenced for mailing scorpions to Talent

Darren Dennis Drake, 39, formerly of Southern Oregon, arranged for scorpions such as this one to be delivered by U.S. mail without prior authorization. [U.S. Attorney’s Office photo]
Darren Dennis Drake, 39, formerly of Southern Oregon, arranged for scorpions such as these to be brought by U.S. mail without prior authorization. U.S. Attorney’s Office photo

A Eugene man who previously lived in Southern Oregon will serve more than 200 hours of community service for his role in a string of scorpion imports through the U.S. mail.

Darren Dennis Drake, 39, was sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Medford to two years of probation and 250 hours of community service for his admitted role importing live scorpions from Germany to Oregon in the fall of 2017 and attempting to import hundreds of euros more worth of the predatory arachnids without a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service import/export license, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court.

He then mailed the predatory arachnids to other parts of the United States the following spring.

In early September 2017, Drake reportedly imported eight live scorpions from Germany to Talent. He attempted to import another dozen scorpions the same month, according to a plea agreement signed in March by Drake’s public defender.

The latter package, which feds say was falsely labeled as containing chocolates, was intercepted Sept. 14 by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.

Federal prosecutors say Drake received a warning letter from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service after the package was intercepted, and there’s a record of Drake and FWS discussing the letter over the phone, along with what Drake needed to do to obtain a license.

The following month, however, Drake made additional attempts to import scorpions without a license. In October 2017, Drake sent €508.05 to Germany for scorpions and in March 2018 sent another €125 for scorpions, according to a sentencing brief filed last week by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Brassell.

Brassell said that Drake further violated domestic mailing laws by having live scorpions delivered from Texas to Oregon the first week of October 2017, and also had 200 live scorpions from Michigan delivered to Oregon.

Assistant Federal Public Defender Devin Huseby argued in a sentencing brief last week that the scorpions involved were not an endangered or otherwise protected species. Some of his client’s activity stemmed from Drake’s fascination with scorpions since childhood, and others were “conducted for more altruistic purposes.”

Drake agreed to collect the 200 scorpions shipped from Michigan “because the scorpions had been used for scientific purposes at a university and were going to be euthanized,” according to Huseby.

“Mr. Drake learned of the scorpions on an arachnid internet forum from a research assistant and agreed to take them,” Huseby wrote.

Drake was indicted in February and pleaded guilty March 14 to a federal misdemeanor charge of conspiring with others to commit Lacey Act violations. He was sentenced Wednesday.

As terms of a negotiated plea agreement, Drake was sentenced Wednesday to probation, community service and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine. The fine will go to the Lacey Act Reward Fund, and the parties agreed for Drake’s community service to be completed through a conservation criminology course.

Reach web editor Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTwebeditor.