Man Pays Price for Trafficking Box Turtles to Corpus Christi
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas - A 34-year-old Louisiana man has been convicted and fined for violating the Lacey Act, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez along with Acting Assistant Director Edward Grace of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).
Byron Paul Pitre pleaded guilty before Senior U.S. District Judge John D. Rainey today. The court then ordered him to serve three years of probation and pay a $2,500 fine. “Our wildlife and environment are a precious natural resource that we need to protect,” said Judge Rainey.
"One of the primary objectives of the FWS - Office of Law Enforcement is to combat the illegal trafficking of wildlife,” said Grace. “The special agents and federal prosecutors work hard to bring defendants to justice, and hopefully this case provides a deterrence to others that want to profit from the illegal sales of protected wildlife.”
The Lacey Act prohibits people from importing, exporting, transporting, selling, receiving, acquiring or purchasing any fish or wildlife or plant taken, possessed, transported or sold in violation of any law, treaty or regulation of the United States or in violation of any tribal law.
During the hearing today, the court heard that in February 2017, Pitre sold and shipped three wild Louisiana box turtles (Terrapene Carolina) to an undercover agent in Corpus Christi. The sale and transportation of wild box turtles from Louisiana to Texas is illegal under Louisiana state law.
In May 2017, agents executed a search warrant at Pitre’s residence in Louisiana. At that time, he admitted to obtaining turtles that were unlawfully caught in the wild and selling them to individuals in Texas, Nevada and New Jersey. Agents also seized more than 230 box turtles, 119 map turtles, 45 leopard tortoises, 20 Sulcata tortoises and 88 tortoise eggs.
The FWS conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Hugo R. Martinez prosecuted the case.