Crime

Alligator-harassment charges dropped against man because he's already doing federal time

Hal Kreitman, the self-described "Haligator," doesn't have to worry about state wildlife law enforcement taking a bite out of his hide.

Since Kreitman now is serving seven years in federal prison for mail fraud and money laundering, Monroe County State Attorney's Office prosecutors decided to drop Kreitman's alligator-harassment case from October.

"Since he's going to be in custody until 2021, a decision was made that this didn't require the use of any more judicial resources," Assistant State Attorney Demetrios Efstratiou said Monday.

Two state conservation counts, a felony charge of attempting to capture or possess an alligator and misdemeanor count of feeding an alligator, were dropped in January along with a charge of driving on a suspended license.

Kreitman, 51, was arrested by undercover Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers who accompanied him to a pond along Loop Road in mainland Monroe County's southern Everglades.

A Miami Beach chiropractor, Kreitman had advertised an "Alligator Experience" where customers could have a "face to face encounter with wild alligators." Kreitman's Facebook page features photos of him caressing an alligator's chin.

He contended in his writings that alligators are not as aggressive toward those who understand their behavior. "It's amazing," he wrote.

"He was charging money to have people come out and actually participate in this illegal activity," FWC Officer Jorge Pino, an agency spokesman, said after the Oct. 29 arrest. "What he did was completely against the law."

FWC officers paid attention when an Oct. 22 edition of the Miami New Times featured an article on Kreitman's trips to the Everglades.

When arrested, Kreitman was out on bond after being convicted in early October on multiple counts of mail fraud and money laundering stemming from a federal investigation into a large ring that committed insurance fraud through phony billings for massage therapy and chiropractic treatments.

Kreitman's defense argued that he performed real therapy and quit his salaried position when he suspected fraud.

In November, federal prosecutors tried to have Kreitman's appeal bond revoked because of the state wildlife case.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra ruled in Kreitman's favor, saying "there was no evidence presented" in federal court to show that Kreitman intended to kill, harm or feed alligators.

But "the evidence clearly established" that Kreitman made physical contact with protected wildlife inside a national park, the judge said.

"Well-intentioned individuals, such as the defendant, who seek to have close encounters with wildlife can actually cause them harm by habituating them to human contact," the judge ruled. Alligators that approach people must be destroyed to "to assure they will not harm humans that come within their proximity."

Kreitman surrendered in January and now is confined at a federal facility in Manchester, Ky.

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