Broward Wildlife Dealer and Company Convicted in Scheme to Harvest and Sell Florida Turtles | USAO-SDFL
Miami, Florida – A federal district judge in Miami has convicted Michael Van Nostrand, 55, of Davie, Florida and Strictly Reptiles, Inc., a company also located in Davie, for their role in an illegal enrichment scheme and to enrich others by smuggling illegally caught Florida turtles out of the United States and into China, Japan and elsewhere.
According to court records, from approximately April 2017 to April 2019, the defendants and their co-conspirators established a network of “collectors” to capture specimens of various wild freshwater turtles in the state of Florida. They then marketed and sold the turtles as “captive bred” to domestic and international customers to give the impression that the turtles had been obtained legally. In text messages, Van Nostrand repeatedly urged his suppliers to acquire more of the main species: Florida’s three-banded mud turtles. (Kinosternon baurii) for his business. To complete the scheme and evade detection, the co-conspirators would mistakenly mark the required federal export declarations with a code indicating that the turtles were bred in captivity, rather than wild-caught.
An investigation by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service documented the illegal acquisition and sale of approximately 3,500 Florida freshwater turtles.
Michael Van Nostrand was sentenced to seven months’ imprisonment, followed by three years’ probation, the first year of which will be served under house arrest. In addition, the Court ordered Van Nostrand to immediately pay a $100,000 fine to the Lacey Act Reward Fund and restricted Van Nostrand’s freedom to engage in the wildlife trade during the supervised release period. During the sentencing hearing, the Court cited Van Nostrand’s compromised health (which was the subject of several courtroom depositions and arguments) as the sole reason for not imposing a heavier sentence. . Strictly Reptiles, Inc. was sentenced to five years probation, a fine of $150,000 also payable immediately to the Lacey Act Reward Fund and supervision of an independent monitor/auditor, who will be selected and appointed with court approval.
The Lacey Act Reward Fund is a congressionally authorized fund available to pay for the care, treatment, and rehabilitation of wildlife pending disposition at the conclusion of civil and criminal cases and to indemnify witnesses and collaborators in criminal investigations.
In oral arguments and courtroom statements, the government noted that significant pressure is being placed on native species – particularly turtles and tortoises – across the United States to satisfy the pet trade. company on the black market, and that the United States faces the specter of certain species becoming extinct in the wild due to illegal poaching activities. The state of Florida has restricted the marketing of wild-caught turtles since 2009 as part of its conservation effort.
Juan Antonio Gonzalez, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida and David Pharo, Acting Special Agent, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement, SAC Office Atlanta, GA announced the sentence imposed by U.S. District Judge Kathleen Mr. Williams.
The US Fish & Wildlife Service investigated the case, with cooperation from the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission. Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Watts-FitzGerald is prosecuting the case.
Related court documents and information may be viewed on the District Court for the Southern District of Florida website at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or at http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov , under file number 21-cr-20495-Williams.