Guilty pleas in scheme to sell rare turtles
BEAUMONT, Texas – Investigators say three men have pleaded guilty in Texas in a scheme to sell dozens of rare alligator snapping turtles.
Experts say the reptiles are the largest freshwater turtles in the world, weighing up to 200 pounds and living as long as a century.
Authorities say the turtles were caught during Texas fishing trips and hauled to Louisiana. Both states have wildlife laws meant to protect the rare turtles.
Prosecutors announced Tuesday that two Louisiana men — Travis Joseph Leger and Rickey Paul Simon, both of Sulphur — and Jason Gene Leckelt of Wilburton, Oklahoma, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to illegally traffic the turtles. They face up to five years in prison.
Federal agents recovered about 30 of the alligators from ponds in Sulphur. Investigators believe the turtles could have brought up to $1,000 apiece.