By Wayne K. Roustan, Sun Sentinel

7:31 pm, January 5, 2015

The owner of a Deerfield Beach reptile store used a large lizard to hit employees, Broward Sheriff’s deputies said.

Benjamin Siegel, 40, of Coconut Creek, was taken into custody Friday and charged with battery and animal cruelty, jail records show.

Siegel is accused of placing a bearded dragon lizard in his mouth, throwing it, swinging it in the air and using it to strike the victims, according to the arrest report.

Siegel is the owner of Siegel Reptiles, at 3314 W. Hillsboro Blvd. in Deerfield Beach, records showed. In October 2012, Siegel held a cockroach-eating contest at the store. The winner, 32-year-old Edward Archbold, died after choking to death on bug parts and his vomit.

Siegel faces one count of cruelty to animals and two counts of battery in connection with the bearded dragon incident, which happened Jan. 2, according to the arrest report.

Siegel’s attorney, Ken Padowitz, said he will “vigorously defend” his client.

“I’m in the process of conducting an investigation and looking into all the facts so I can best represent my client against these allegations,” Padowitz said.

“I’ve known Mr. Siegel for some period of time,” the attorney said. “He runs a very successful business and I want to be able to know all the facts before I comment on them specifically.”

At his first appearance in bond court Monday, Siegel said the detention deputy standing next to him made him “nervous.” Judge John Hurley assured Siegel the guard was just doing his job.

Court records show that Siegel also faces a cocaine possession charge from a Dec. 24, 2014, arrest. That case is pending, records show.