ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — A woman was arrested in Orange County for stealing an alligator and keeping it in her hotel bathtub.

On Monday, Sept. 4, The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) received a call to the Grove Resort and Water Park in Orange County.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office was asking for assistance in dealing with a young alligator that a woman was keeping in her hotel room’s bathtub.

According to FWC, she “borrowed” the alligator without permission to take pictures with for her five-day stay at the resort for her birthday.

Once FWC Dennis Officer Navarino arrived on the scene at 14501 Grove Resort Avenue, he asked for the person who had stolen the alligator.

Pinellas County woman Madison Stephan, 26, revealed she had previously worked at Croc Encounters in Tampa Bay, which allows live alligators for display.

FWC said Stephan went to Croc Encounters before opening hours, used the keys to get into the building, and proceeded to take the gator with her.

She then drove off back to the resort, where she placed it in the bathtub with water inside it.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)

FWC officer Navarino said the reptile was cold to the touch when he retrieved it.

He then spoke to Jurney Booth, who was with Stephan, and confirmed everything she had said.

Booth said Stephan told her she had a surprise for her — the surprise being a stolen alligator.

Owner of Croc Encounters, John Paner, told FWC that Stephan was not employed at the business anymore and did not have permission to be on the property or better yet, take an alligator.

Paner confirmed there was one missing juvenile alligator. He declined to prosecute for theft or trespassing.

FWC said the alligator was safely returned to Paner later that afternoon.

The incident was recorded on FWC officer Navarino’s body camera.

Stephan was arrested for a misdemeanor for a level three violation under 379.3014: unlawful sale, possession, or transportation of alligators or alligator skins.

She was issued a notice to appear for the possession of the reptile.

Jusolyn Flower

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