Two men have been sentenced to probation or time served on federal wildlife trafficking charges following unrelated undercover operations involving protected spotted turtles, U.S Attorney Bill Nettles said Wednesday.
Undercover agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services bought spotted turtles from Steven Baker, 35, of Holly Hill, and Ray Robertson, 68, of Cottageville, at reptile shows in South Carolina and Florida, Nettles said in a news release.
Baker, owner of Southeastern Reptile Locators, which he operates out of his Holly Hill home, made two sales in 2012 and 2013 to undercover agents.
In August of 2012, he sold 17 spotted turtles to an undercover agent for $1,200 at the Daytona Beach, Fla., Reptile Breeders Exposition. In May of 2013, he sent 18 spotted turtles and some other turtle species via UPS to the same agent for $1,710. His Holly Hill home was raided in August of 2013, and agents found illegal weapons and turtle-related evidence, Nettles said.
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Baker was sentenced Tuesday to three years probation for the wildlife and weapons charges by U.S. District Judge Judge David Norton of Charleston.
Robertson, owner of Apostle Reptiles, told an undercover agent who approached his table in 2013 at the S.C. Repticon Reptile Exposition in Columbia that he had 119 spotted turtles for sale. In March and July of 2013, Robertson shipped a total of 26 spotted turtles to the agent for $4,920.
Robertson was sentenced in August to time served by U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel of Charleston.
The Southeastern United States is recognized as a “Turtle Priority Area,” because of the region’s rich turtle biodiversity, Nettles said.
The spotted turtle , while not listed as endangered, is recognized as a protected species and S.C. law requires a permit for anyone to “take, possess, transport, import, expert, process, sell, offer for sale, ship or receive for shipment, any Spotted Turtle,” the release said.
Neither Baker nor Robertson had a permit at the time they sold the turtles.