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Arkansas Man Sentenced for Illegal Turtle Dealing


April 7, 2003

Christine Eustis, (404) 679-7287

Little Rock -- James Randleas of Jacksonville, AR, doing business as Randleas Turtle Farm, Inc., was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Little Rock on three counts of violating the Lacey Act. The Lacey Act is a Federal statute which makes it unlawful to transport wildlife across state lines if the wildlife was taken, sold, or possessed in violation of state law.

A cooperative investigation between the enforcement divisions of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service revealed that on two occasions Randleas purchased alligator snapping turtles from a Mississippi resident knowing that the turtles had been taken from the wild, which is a violation of Mississippi law. Evidence showed that Randleas then knowingly imported the turtles into Arkansas in violation of Arkansas law. The investigation also revealed that Randleas operated a commercial turtle business out of Jacksonville and Biscoe, AR, and offered the illegally taken turtles for sale through his turtle business.

“We work cooperatively with the States of Arkansas and Mississippi on many cases to protect native wildlife,” said Thomas M. Riley, Special Agent in Charge for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southeast Division of Law Enforcement. “Wildlife crime has a serious impact on the States’ natural resources, and we are pleased with the judge’s ruling.”

U.S. District Judge Steven M. Reasoner ordered Randleas to pay a fine of $8,000.00 and placed him on one year of active probation for the three violations. Lee Gardner of Greenwood, Mississippi was also charged in the original indictment. Gardner was sentenced to pay a fine of $3,000.00 for his part in the violation. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Bill Adair.

“The Commission is committed to protecting and conserving the wildlife of Arkansas,” said Lt. Colonel John Day with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. “We hope that this sentence will discourage others who might want to profit from the illegal take and sale of this resource.”

The largest freshwater turtle in the world, alligator snapping turtles are native only to the southeastern United States. Their numbers have decreased over the years due to diminished habitat and over harvest to supply a thriving commercial market. Because of their declining numbers, many southern states have prohibited the take of this species from the wild. Adult alligator snapping turtles can grow to over 150 pounds and have been documented to live up to 80 years in captivity. The wild alligator snapping turtles involved in this investigation all weighed in excess of 100 pounds.

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