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Press Release

He’s At It Again: Turtle-Egg Thief Convicted A Second Time For Stealing Nested Sea Turtle Eggs From Coastal Georgia Island

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

BRUNSWICK, GEORGIA- Lewis Jackson, 60, of Brunswick, Georgia pled guilty today before Chief United States District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood to stealing loggerhead sea turtle eggs in violation of the Lacey Act.  Among other things, the Lacey Act makes it unlawful for any person to acquire, receive and transport loggerhead sea turtle eggs, as loggerheads are endangered species under federal law.  Back in 2013, Jackson was convicted a first time for stealing turtle eggs, and was sentenced to serve 6 months in prison.  Jackson was on federal supervised release when he was caught stealing turtle eggs for the second time.

According to evidence presented during today’s guilty plea hearing, on July 6, 2015, a Wildlife Technician with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Sea Turtle Program discovered that 84 loggerhead sea turtle eggs from a nest on Sapelo Island, Georgia were missing.  Law enforcement determined that one of the visitors to the island that day was Jackson, who had stolen over 150 loggerhead turtle eggs in 2012.  The next day, on July 7, Jackson was arrested trying to leave the island with a cooler full of sea turtle eggs.  Jackson appeared to have wrapped the eggs with the intent to sell them.  Loggerhead eggs now fetch as much as $25 per egg on the black market.  Because of Jackson’s handling of the turtle eggs, they were no longer viable and were therefore destroyed.  Sea turtles are long-lived and slow to reach maturity. Pressures from the illegal harvesting of eggs and the poaching of adults worsen the extinction risk faced by these animals. In Georgia, the loggerhead sea turtle is listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act and is the most common sea turtle which nests on Sapelo Island.

In 2013, Jackson was sentenced to 6 months in prison and 2 years of supervised release.  For his second conviction, he faces a maximum of 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.  A new sentencing date will be set after the United States Probation Office conducts a presentence investigation.  Jackson remains in the custody of the United States Marshals pending his sentencing.

United States Attorney Edward Tarver said, “This defendant has attempted to profit yet again by unlawfully exploiting an endangered species and a national treasure.  Since his 6 months was apparently not a sufficient deterrence, we will ask that this defendant be sentenced to serve a significant amount of the next few years in a federal prison.”

Luis Santiago, Special Agent in Charge, Southeast Region, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, stated, “We take our mission to support our state counterpart wildlife enforcement agencies very seriously and we will continue to work with our counterparts to concentrate on and aggressively pursue individuals who are involved in the illegal trade of protected species of wildlife.”

This case was investigated by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and the United States Probation Office.  Assistant United States Attorney E. Greg Gilluly, Jr. is prosecuting the case for the United States.  Please direct any additional questions to First Assistant United States Attorney James D. Durham at (912) 201-2547.

Updated August 31, 2015