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Press Release

Estero Man Sentenced For Illegally Poaching And Transporting Wood Turtles

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Florida

Fort Myers, Florida – U.S. District Judge Sheri Polster Chappell today sentenced Michael P. Ellard (58, Estero) to 15 months in federal prison, for illegally capturing Wood Turtles and transporting them across state lines into Florida for commercial gain. In doing so, Ellard violated the Lacey Act, which makes it unlawful for any person to knowingly transport or sell wildlife that has been taken, collected, or captured in violation of law. A restitution hearing has been set for March 2, 2020.

Ellard had pleaded guilty on July 24, 2019.    

The collection of Wood Turtles is illegal in West Virginia because it is a primary threat to the species’ viability in that state. According to court documents, Ellard was engaged in the business of buying and selling reptiles within Florida and throughout the United States. During three separate trips to the West Virginia area in March, April, and May 2016, Ellard illegally captured at least 140 Wood Turtles and transported them across state lines into Florida with the intent to sell them.

On May 19, 2016, during the execution of a federal search warrant at Ellard’s residence in Estero, U.S. Fish and Wildlife agents seized a total of 17 Wood Turtles. Ellard had transported these turtles from the West Virginia area to Florida.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jeffrey F. Michelland.

Updated December 16, 2019