Turtle Farm Employee Sentenced for Illegally Exporting Turtles to China
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Andrew Aloise, Resident Agent in Charge, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Major Curtis Brown, Statewide Investigations, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), announced yesterday’s sentencing of defendant Christopher Craig, 37, of Okeechobee, Florida. U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez sentenced Craig to two years of probation and 50 hours of community service on a charge of conspiracy to export turtles in interstate and foreign commerce, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371 incorporating the Lacey Act, Title 16, United States Code, Sections 3372(a)(2)(A) and 3373(d)(1)(A). Craig had pled guilty on July 16, 2012.
According to the court documents and statements made in court, in September and November 2011, Craig assisted with the purchase and packaging of “wild caught” soft-shell turtles (Apalone ferox), which were sold to purchasers in China using brokers in Los Angeles, California, in violation of the Lacey Act.
Craig worked at a turtle aquaculture facility, known as the Big Lake Fish Farm II, which possessed an FWCC Turtle Aquaculture Brood Stock Collection Permit. Big Lake Fish Farm II was issued the permit to protect the rich turtle biodiversity of the South Eastern United States, which has been the victim of commercial overharvesting to fulfill the demand in Asia for consumption of turtles. Big Lake Fish Farm II’s permit allowed it to collect more than 15,000 turtles of various species from the wild for use as brood stock. However, in violation of his FWCC Permit, Craig facilitated the purchase and packaging of the wild-caught turtles and instead of holding them at the aquaculture facility to use as brood stock, Craig helped his employer to repeatedly ship the live turtles to China.
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and FWC. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Norman O. Hemming, III, Jamie Raich and Antonia Barnes.
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.