WASHINGTON—Two individuals were charged today in a nine count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Baton Rouge, La., for illegally hunting threatened species of alligators, the Justice Department announced.
The indictment charges Clint P. Martinez, 43, and Michael A. Martinez, 47, both of Plaquemine, La., with nine violations of the Lacey Act, the federal wildlife statute that makes it illegal to transport, sell, receive, acquire or purchase illegally taken wildlife.
According to the indictment, Clint Martinez, a licensed alligator hunter, and Michael Martinez, a licensed alligator helper, were paid guides who took clients of an outfitter on sport alligator hunts. The indictment alleges nine instances in 2005, 2006 and 2009, that both Clint and Michael Martinez, while engaged in conduct involving the sale and purchase of wildlife, transported, sold, received and acquired American alligators, knowing that the wildlife was taken, possessed, transported and sold in violation of the laws and regulations of the United States. The indictment alleges transactions that were worth nearly $44,000.
An indictment is merely an accusation, and the individuals charged are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
In addition to being listed as a threatened species on the United States’ list of Threatened and Endangered Species, the American alligator also is listed as a crocodilian species on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). To better regulate trade in crocodilian species, the parties to CITES agreed to a program of requiring a uniquely numbered tag to be inserted into the skin of each animal immediately after it is killed. The tag is to remain with the skin as it travels in interstate or international commerce until it is manufactured into a final consumer product. The Secretary of the Interior issued special rules for American alligators that implement the CITES tagging program and regulate the harvest of alligators within the United States.
The maximum penalty for each count of the indictment is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
This case was investigated by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It is being prosecuted by the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section with assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Louisiana.