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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Middle District of Florida

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Tarpon Springs Man Pleads Guilty To Violating Endangered Species Act

Tampa, Florida – Nicholas Skaroulis (58, Tarpon Springs) has pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Endangered Species Act by causing the unlawful export of wildlife. Skaroulis faces a maximum penalty of one year in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set.

According to the plea agreement, Skaroulis owned and operated Sponges Direct, Inc., a business located in Tarpon Springs, Florida. Among other things, the company sold non-living natural sponges to customers, both domestic and foreign. During 2014 through 2018, the company sold and exported non-living sponges to customers outside of the United States. The company failed to disclose the contents of these shipments on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Declaration Forms as required by federal regulation. By doing so, the company evaded the payment of inspection and user fees on each shipment.

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service investigated this case. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jay L. Hoffer.

Updated October 7, 2019