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Press Release

Jersey City, New Jersey, Man Sentenced To Five Years Of Probation For Trafficking Threatened Turtles

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey

NEWARK, N.J. – A Jersey City, New Jersey, man was sentenced today to five years of probation for conspiring to traffic turtle species designated as threatened under New Jersey state law, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Patrick Elfers, 48, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler to an information charging him with one count of conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act, which prohibits the interstate sale of wildlife with a market value of more $350 that has been taken or possessed in violation of any state law or regulation. Judge Chesler imposed the sentence today in Newark federal court.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

New Jersey’s Endangered and Nongame Species Act prohibits the taking, possession, transportation, exportation or sale of spotted turtles, North American wood turtles and Eastern box turtles, among other species. New Jersey has designated the North American wood turtle as threatened because it is a vulnerable species that could become endangered. The spotted turtle and Eastern box turtle are listed as species of special concern.

Elfers admitted that, from December 2011 through March 2014, he possessed various turtle species, including spotted turtles, North American wood turtles and Eastern box turtles, at his home in Jersey City without the required permits under New Jersey State law. He advertised the turtles on wildlife trade websites to prospective purchasers in New Jersey and elsewhere. Elfers also shipped turtles to purchasers in New York State by tying them in tube socks to restrict their movement and packing them in boxes that were neither designed nor appropriate for the shipment of live animals.

As part of his probationary term, Elfers is prohibited from residing with wildlife of any kind and his computer will be monitored for any online wildlife trade activity. Judge Chesler also fined Elfers $30,450 for the care and housing of the 40 turtles Elfers forfeited as part of his plea agreement. The mandatory forfeiture included 27 Eastern box turtles, one Florida box turtle, three three-toed box turtles, five Gulf Coast box turtles and four North American wood turtles.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement, under the direction Resident Special Agent in Charge Preston Fant, with the investigation leading to today’s sentencing.

The Government is represented by Assistant United States Attorney Kathleen P. O'Leary of the U.S. Attorney's Office Health Care and Government Fraud Unit in Newark.

Defense counsel:  James R. Lisa Esq., Newark                                                                                                                    

Updated October 20, 2015

Press Release Number: 15-377