New Jersey Man Sentenced for Smuggling Over 1,000 Illegally Collected Box Turtles from Oklahoma
A New Jersey man was sentenced Tuesday in federal court to conspiring with others to purchase, transport and sell more than 1,000 box turtles that were unlawfully collected from the state of Oklahoma, announced U.S. Attorney Trent Shores.
Chief U.S. District Judge John E. Dowdell sentenced William T. Gangemi, 27, of Freehold, New Jersey, to two years of probation. The Court also ordered Gangemi pay $250,000 in restitution to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and a $100,000 fine to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“Gangemi was part of a syndicate of wildlife smugglers that exchanged three-toed and western box turtles back and forth between the United States and China. I can’t say that I ever expected we’d be announcing a turtle smuggling prosecution, but I’ve learned just how prevalent this criminal enterprise is globally and the detrimental impact it has on our wildlife population in Oklahoma, not just today but for future generations,” said U.S. Attorney Trent Shores. “I’m proud of this case and the result it achieved to better protect Oklahoma wildlife. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service teamed up with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to investigate this case from Oklahoma to New Jersey. Their hard work is to be commended.”
“This case is an excellent example of how state and federal law enforcement agencies work together to combat the illegal wildlife trade," said Phillip Land, a Special Agent in Charge for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "We will vigorously investigate wildlife crime in Oklahoma and in our great nation to hold traffickers accountable and protect imperiled species for future generations. We would like to thank the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the U. S. Attorney's Office for their assistance with this case."
From May 1, 2017 to May 31, 2018, Gangemi knowingly facilitated the purchase and transport of unlawfully collected three-toed and western (ornate) box turtles from Oklahoma to New Jersey in order to sell them for profit.
By smuggling the turtles, Gangemi violated the Lacey Act, a federal law which makes it a felony to engage in the sale or purchase of protected wildlife with a market value in excess of $350 knowing that the wildlife was taken, possessed, transported or sold in violation of laws or regulations of any state. In Oklahoma, the collection of both types of box turtles for commercial purposes is against the law. Box turtles reach sexual maturity at approximately 10 years of age and have a high nest and juvenile mortality rate. Due to these factors, the harvest of the turtles can have highly detrimental effects on populations.
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan M. Roberts prosecuted the case.