West Palm Beach, Fl. – Federal prosecutors in West Palm Beach have charged two Florida residents with felony crimes for allegedly poaching protected sea turtle eggs to later sell them. The accused poachers allegedly stole 93 eggs from their nest on Florida’s Singer Island Beach in May of this year.
Ariana Fajardo Orshan, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, David Pharo, Resident Agent in Charge, Florida, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS); and Major Olin Rondeau, South A Regional Commander, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) made the announcement.
The criminal complaint charges Carl Lawrence Cobb, 63, and Bruce Wayne Bivins, 63, both of Riviera Beach, Florida, with violating the Lacey Act and with criminal conspiracy. The Endangered Species Act protects sea turtle eggs. Under the Lacey Act, it is a crime to transport endangered species of fish and wildlife, including sea turtle eggs, if the purpose is to sell them. If convicted, Cobb and Bivins face up to five years in prison on each charge.
According to the criminal complaint affidavit, Cobb used his green pick-up truck to drive Bivins to the Singer Island Beach on May 24. At about 9:45 p.m., Cobb allegedly dropped Bivins off on the beach and drove away. The affidavit alleges that Bivins located a sea turtle nest, started digging, removed 93 eggs from that nest, put the eggs in a black bag, and then called Cobb for pick-up. Officers with Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) saw the alleged drop-off, digging, and stealing of the protected eggs from their nest. They also saw Cobb on his return trip for Bivins. This time, Cobb drove a white pick-up truck because Cobb allegedly believed that a “game warden” had spotted him earlier in his green truck.
FWC officers stopped the white truck. They found Cobb in the driver’s seat, Bivins in the passenger’s seat, and 93 sand-dusted sea turtle eggs inside a black bag in the bed of the truck. Officers arrested Cobb and Bivins.
Marine biologists relocated the recovered eggs. The hope is that some of them will yield sea turtle hatchlings.
U. S. Attorney Fajardo Orshan commended the investigative efforts of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Assistant United States Attorneys Lauren Jorgensen and John McMillan are prosecuting this case.
A criminal complaint is a charging instrument containing allegations. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
You may find related court documents and information on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or at http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov, under case number 20-8242-WM.
For more information on the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, visit https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdfl.