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Press Release

Defendants Sentenced for Capturing and Restraining Endangered Key Deer

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

Two South Florida residents who captured and restrained three Florida Key deer on Big Pine Key were sentenced today in federal court in Key West for violations of the Endangered Species Act, Title 16, United States Code, Sections 1538(a)(1(B), 1540(b)(1) and Title 18, United States Code, Section 2.


Benjamin G. Greenberg, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, David Pharo, Resident Agent in Charge, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement, Miami Field Office, and Major Alfredo Escanio, Regional Commander, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, Southeast Region Bravo, made the announcement.


The defendants, Erik Damas Acosta, 18, of Miami Gardens, and Tumani A. Younge, 23, of Tamarac, previously pled guilty for their involvement in the July 2, 2017 incident on Big Pine Key in Monroe County, Florida. United States District Judge Jose E. Martinez sentenced Acosta to a total term of one year in jail on the counts of conviction, followed by two years of supervised release, and ordered him to perform 200 hours of community service. Younge was sentenced to time already served, placed on 180 days of home confinement subject to electronic monitoring, given a term of supervised release of two years, and ordered to perform 200 hours of community service. The Court further found that neither defendant could pay a criminal fine.


According to court records, including a Joint Factual Statement signed by the defendants, they used food to lure the three deer to them and then captured the deer. The defendants trussed up the deer and then placed them in their vehicle. They further admitted that their actions resulted in injury to an adult male Key deer. That animal, which suffered a fractured leg among other injuries, had to be euthanized by authorities.


After departing the Big Pine Key area in their car, southbound on the Overseas Highway, the defendants were stopped as a result of a traffic infraction and the three deer found in the vehicle – the adult male in the trunk, and a juvenile male along with a doe, confined in the back seat of the car.


The Endangered Species Act (“ESA”), Title 16, United States Code, Sections 1531 et seq., was enacted by Congress to conserve endangered and threatened species and the ecosystems upon which they depend. The term “endangered species” means any species, or part thereof, which is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.  Title 16, United States Code, Section 1532(6). The Florida Key deer (Odocoileus virginianus clavium), is included within the list of designated endangered species, set forth in Title 50, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 17.21(c)(1).


Mr. Greenberg commended the investigative efforts the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, Monroe County Sherriff’s Department, National Fish & Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, Oregon, and the Monroe County State’s Attorney’s Office.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Watts-FitzGerald. 


Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at or on

Updated October 31, 2017