Police and a specialist snake handler swooped on a Wellington apartment last October after a man claimed he saw a snake while he was there with a prostitute.
It turned out to be a wild snake chase, despite a detailed tip-off that included which apartment it was in, that it had bred, and that it was five feet long.
Christopher Raymond Wills, 45, today pleaded guilty to giving false or misleading information to the Primary Industries Ministry.
The case presented Wellington District Court judge Peter Hobbs with an unusual situation, with offenders normally denying there was an animal.
Wills, who had used a false name, had said he had seen the snake at the apartment while he was there with a prostitute.
Three police officers, two MIP officers, an investigator, a snake handler and a forensic analyst were involved in the search of the apartment but no snake was found.
Judge Hobbs said there was no explanation from Wills about the offending. Significant resources had been used to deal with what could have been a serious threat to New Zealand's biosecurity. Snakes are not allowed in New Zealand, even in zoos.
Judge Hobbs sentenced Wills to 60 hours' community work.
Wills' lawyer Louise Brown said Wills had a new job and was now clean of drugs although he had been diagnosed with cancer and wanted to get the charge over and done.
- The Dominion Post
Does Wellington need a hotel/conference centre at $2m a year in ratepayers' costs?Related story: Five stars come at a price for ratepayers