Pennsylvania Man Charged With Trafficking Over 3,500 Turtles

SHUTTERSTOCK/ Michael Ransburg

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Neetu Chandak Education and Politics Reporter
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A Pennsylvania man was indicted for smuggling over 3,500 turtles and submitting false records, according to a Department of Justice report released Tuesday.

The indictment alleges that David Sommers, a 62-year-old from Levittown, poached diamondback terrapins and their eggs from New Jersey’s coast and then sold them. Sommers allegedly broke the Lacey Act, which prohibits selling wildlife that was taken through illegal measures, according to the DOJ.

Sommers also allegedly transported turtles into Canada in a package in 2014, but lied about the contents of the package claiming he had a book, according to the indictment. The turtles are sought after because of the unique diamond marks on the shells, according to the DOJ.

The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) conducted a search in October 2017 and recovered over 3,400 of the hatchlings in Sommer’s home. FWS, along with biologists, safely returned the turtles to New Jersey. (RELATED: Idaho Science Teacher Allegedly Fed A Puppy To A Snapping Turtle In The Name Of Science)

If Sommers is found guilty, he could face up to “10 years incarceration on the smuggling charge and five years for the Lacey Act violations,” according to the DOJ.

Though diamondback terrapins are not found in Pennsylvania, they are native to the eastern and southern shores of the United States. New Jersey banned collecting, transporting and keeping the turtles due to their dwindling numbers.

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