A New Jersey man pleaded guilty Wednesday, Oct. 23rd to smuggling more than 1,000 box turtles illegally collected in Oklahoma, according to U.S. Attorney Trent Shores.
Authorities said William T. Gangemi conspired with others to collect three-toed and western box turtles from the state to sell them for profit.
"Gangemi was part of a syndicate of wildlife smugglers where protected turtles were exchanged back and forth between the United States and China," a news release said.
Box turtles are a protected species as they have a high nest and juvenile mortality rate and are slow to mature.
"Due to these factors, the harvest of the turtles can have highly detrimental effects on populations," the release states.
“As a result of the diligent investigative work undertaken by agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Mr. Gangemi must now face the consequences," Shores said.
“Oklahomans respect and value wildlife, and we don’t appreciate those who would seek to exploit our vulnerable wildlife populations for their corrupt greed."
Gangemi agreed to pay pay $250,000 in restitution to the ODWC and a $100,000 fine.