York man indicted for trafficking turtles
A Bucks County man has been indicted on charges he trafficked a threatened turtle species.
David Sommers, 62, of York, is charged with smuggling and four violations of the Lacey Act, which prohibits wildlife trafficking, the Department of Justice announced Tuesday.
Prosecutors say a warrant served at Sommers’ home in October resulted in the discovery of 3,400 newly hatched diamondback terrapin turtles.
According to the indictment, Sommers, throughout 2017, traveled to New Jersey where he poached the turtles and their eggs. Sommers also, according to the indictment, in 2014, smuggled turtles into Canada in a package which he labeled as containing a book.
“The distinctive coloration and pattern of the diamondback terrapin make it highly susceptible to illegal poaching and smuggling,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Wood of the Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division, said in a release. “The Department of Justice will continue to work with its law enforcement partners to prosecute those who break our nation’s wildlife protection statutes for the sake of illegal profit.”
According to a release by DOJ, the turtles in question are not native to Pennsylvania. The species is semi-aquatic and found in brackish water in the eastern and southern U.S. There is, according to Justice, there is a dwindling population of the turtles native to New Jersey.
“The terrapins are prized in the reptile pet trade for their unique, diamond-shaped shell markings. The turtles are protected under New Jersey law and by an international treaty, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora,” the release reads, in part.
If convicted, Sommers faces up to 15 years behind bars.
Prosecutors say the 3,400 young turtles found in Sommers’ home have been returned to their habitat in New Jersey.