According to federal authorities, a man from North Carolina was sentenced to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to trading hundreds of endangered turtles for sale in Asia.
48-year-old Jesse James Freeman is accused of at least delivering 722 oriental turtles, 122 spotted turtles and three wood turtles from North Carolina between January 2017 and September 2018, according to a press release from the Department of Justice.
According to the release, Freeman himself will collect turtles and hire poachers to illegally extract them. He then supplied turtles to “intermediaries” across the United States who sold them to Asia, federal officials said.
According to prosecutors, Freeman received about $ 121,000 from a turtle trade operation, but overseas reptiles were much higher. The cost of smuggled turtles in Asia exceeds $ 1.5 million, the release said.
“Armor can have devastating effects on all three species of turtles, given the low survival of young and the time it takes to reach puberty,” the release said. “Collectors value these species in the domestic and foreign livestock markets, where they are resold for thousands of dollars.”
The eastern turtle is a reptile of the state of North Carolina, it can be found in forests on the east coast and the Midwest, according to prosecutors. Spotted and wood turtles can be found in the eastern United States and the Great Lakes region, the release said.
All three turtles are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, federal authorities said. Turtles are not considered “currently endangered” but may be endangered if trade is not regulated.
“The Department of Justice is committed to protecting our local species from international trade,” said Todd Kim, assistant attorney general in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Department of Justice. “Today’s verdict is the latest example of the dire consequences for those who break Lacey’s law by exploiting turtles.”
In addition to Freeman’s prison term, he will also have to pay a $ 25,000 fine to the Lacey Law Rewards Fund and will not be able to possess wildlife caught or any wildlife without documents of origin for a three-year surveillance period. after his release, federal officials said.