Florida Man Pleads Guilty to Poaching Sea Turtle Eggs
A loggerhead hatchling heads toward the sea.
Credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Florida may be the American epicenter of weird wildlife crime, where contraband lizards spring zombie-like from the ground and riding manatees or sick sperm whales is practically a native art.

In the latest animal-related offense to hit the Sunshine State, a man plead guilty Friday (March 28) to snatching 316 sea turtle eggs from Juno Beach on the Atlantic coast, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida.

The suspect, Kenneth Cornelius Coleman, 52, of Riviera Beach, Fla., faces up to five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine, authorities said. The eggs, which belonged to loggerhead and green sea turtles, are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Coleman's DNA was allegedly discovered on one of three canvas bags, which contained more than 200 eggs combined and were left near the crime scene (a few disturbed nests and a trail of six eggs) on July 3, 2013. A day later, a backpack containing 97 eggs was discovered nearby, authorities said.

Coleman previously was sentenced to 30 months in prison in a 2010 case involving turtle eggs, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. Turtle eggs are illegally harvested for food; sometimes their shells are used in jewelry and souvenirs. The eggs Coleman allegedly stole would have sold for between $948 and $1,580, authorities estimated.

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