Riviera Beach Man Sentenced To 24 Months in Prison In Juno Beach Endangered Sea Turtle Egg Taking Case
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and William H. Calvert, Law Enforcement Officer, United States Fish & Wildlife Service, West Palm Beach, announce that Kenneth Cornelius Coleman, 52, of Riviera Beach, was sentenced today to 24 months in prison by U.S. District Judge William Zloch after pleading guilty to one count of unlawfully transporting endangered sea turtle eggs in violation of the Lacey Act, Title 16 United States Code, Section 3372. The government requested the maximum penalty of five years in prison for Coleman. The judge ordered that this sentence run consecutively to the 12-month prison sentence Coleman was given after violating his supervised release on a prior turtle egg poaching case, Case No. 10-80124-CR-RYSKAMP. Coleman was also sentenced to three years of supervised release, the maximum under the statute.
According to the Information and other court documents, on July 3, 2013, sea turtle surveyors discovered disturbed sea turtle nests in the area of the beach crossover at 840 Ocean Drive in Juno Beach, Palm Beach County, Florida. Nearby, a trail of six sea turtle eggs were found in the sand. Probing marks were visible in the disturbed nests.
Juno Beach Police officers responded. At the beach crossover near 840 Ocean Drive, officers found a wooden stick that appeared to have been used to probe the turtle nests, as well as three canvas bags. A blue bag was discovered and found to contain 213 sea turtle eggs. DNA analysis of this bag later concluded that the DNA profile previously obtained from Kenneth C. Coleman matched the DNA on the bag.
A biologist and sea turtle expert found that one of the nests disturbed on July 3, 2013, was a Green Sea Turtle nest (endangered species), and the other three were Loggerhead Sea Turtle nests (threatened species), both species of which are protected under Federal Law. The 216 sea turtle eggs were reburied in an attempt to allow them to continue to mature and to hatch.
On July 4, 2013, additional sea turtle nests were found to have been disturbed and to be missing turtle eggs, including Loggerhead and Green Sea Turtle eggs. These were in the area of the beach crossover near 70 Celestial Way in Juno Beach, not far from the disturbed nests from the day before. Also near that location, Juno Beach police officers discovered a backpack which contained 97 sea turtle eggs. These eggs were reburied as well. Defendant Coleman was later contacted on the beach near where these nests were disturbed. Officers detained him on suspicion of sea turtle egg poaching but did not advise him about the charges at that point. Coleman spontaneously stated, “I don’t know nothing about no turtle eggs.”
The eggs were examined by a biologist and confirmed that all of the eggs found were in fact sea turtle eggs. Because sea turtle eggs are illegal contraband, it is very difficult to establish a precise market value for the eggs, but the retail black market value is estimated by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service to be between $3.00 and $5.00 per egg, for a total value between $948 and $1,580.
Coleman was previously charged and pled guilty to violating the Lacey Act by transporting endangered sea turtle eggs in 2010 in Case No. 10-80124-CR-RYSKAMP. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison by Judge Kenneth Ryskamp in that case.
The U. S. Attorney commended the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Juno Beach Police Department and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission for their work in the case. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Lauren Jorgensen in the West Palm Beach U. S. Attorney?s Office.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.