Pet store owner uses reptile to assault employees

Benjamin Siegel charged with battery, animal cruelty

By Terrell Forney - Reporter

DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. - A bizarre crime at a Deerfield Beach pet store was caught on surveillance video.

The Broward Sheriff's Office has yet to release the footage that apparently shows a man putting a bearded dragon in his mouth and using the reptile to assault store employees.

The man at the center of the accusations is the store's owner, Benjamin Siegel, who is being held in jail without bond. The 40-year old has been charged with battery and animal cruelty.

Siegel appeared in bond court Monday morning to be formally arraigned on the charges.

At one point Siegel asked a Broward County Sheriff's Office detention deputy to "step back." The jailguard replied "no" and that's when Broward Circuit court judge Jon Hurley stepped in.

"Mr. Siegel, I ordered the deputy to stand right there," Hurley said. "He is doing his job."

Siegel has a history of erratic behavior and a slew of recent arrests for assault, false imprisonment and cocaine possession. Many of the violent accusations involve past and present employees. His store, Ben Siegel Reptiles, at 3314 W. Hillsboro Blvd. in Deerfield Beach, has also been in the news before.

Two years ago the shop hosted a cockroach-eating contest but one contestant died after choking on the insect.

In the most recent incident involving the bearded dragon, Siegel also used a Gatorade beverage to douse his victims. It's unclear what happened to the reptile used in the odd confrontation.

Experts said bearded dragons can grow as long as 18 inches.

Siegel has been ordered to stay away from the two victims named in the arrest report, who were employees at the time. The pet shop owner has also been ordered not to have any contact with reptiles.

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