Ray  pleaded guilty to one felony charge, the state dropped the other.

Ray Grenell Thunderhawk Gets House Arrest

VIERA— The plot was to steal antique swords said to be worth at least $2 million from a Deltona residence, according to a police report.

The 20 or so swords, apparently taken from a museum in Saigon in 1968, were to be handled by a Colombian broker, paid for with money brought in by “fast-boats.”

But the 2009 plot unraveled when a confidential informant told police about the conspiracy.

Soon after, Ray Thunderhawk, best known in Brevard County as the former owner of at least 50 lions and tigers, was arrested on charges related to planning the armed robbery of the swords that he felt belonged to him. He was later sentenced to house arrest.

The people stealing the swords would get about 10 percent of their value, the arrest report alleges.

On Thursday, Thunderhawk, 53, showed up in a Viera court as prosecutors and a defense attorney worked out a plea deal in front of Judge Morgan Laur Reinman.

He pleaded guilty to one felony charge, the state dropped the other.

“Are you pleading guilty to the charge because you are guilty?” the judge asked him.

“Yes, ma’am,” Thunderhawk said.

He will serve two years of house arrest to be followed by eight years of probation.

According to the police report of the incident, the woman at the Deltona residence gave the swords to Thunderhawk in 2006 to sell at auction.

In 2009, she tracked Thunderhawk down and got the swords back.

After his arrest, he told investigators he believed that the swords were his property.

If convicted at trial, Thunderhawk could have been sentenced to a maximum of 15 years in prison on each robbery charge.

Instead, he sat in the courtroom gallery, wearing a Native American bone choker, as he waited for a court deputy to hand him his paperwork.

“I wear it for protection,” he said.

He reminisced about his days with the big cats that he rescued from previous owners.

“I trust them more than human beings,” he said.

Thunderhawk owned about 50 lions and tigers at one point before he lost most of them during a custody battle with an ex-girlfriend.

“It’s like my heart has been pulled out,” Thunderhawk said. “It is something I need to get back into.”

Contact Basu at 321-242-3724 or kbasu@floridatoday.com.