By Laura Tolliver, John Sparks
Four men, including an Okeechobee freshwater turtle farmer, are under arrest in connection with illegally selling, buying or harvesting wild-caught fresh water turtles, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
FWC says the arrests are the result of lengthy investigation throughout Polk and Seminole counties.
They say it began after the arrest of My Van Vo of Lakeland. They say he had 87 live softshell turtles weighing over 500 pounds. The investigation led them to two other men whom they accuse of poaching freshwater turtles and selling them to Harden and Son's Turtle Farm in Okeechobee.
Canh Van Nguyen of Lakeland, and Lieng Su Pham of Winter Haven were charged with two felonies and four misdemeanors, FWC said.
The owner of the turtle farm, Franklin Gene Harden, was charged with three felonies and four misdemeanors, according to FWC.
"We hope our efforts to protect wild turtle populations help ensure everyone has the opportunity to see freshwater turtles in the wild and harvest them recreationally," Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Lt. George Wilson said in a statement.
He said turtles are in demand as food throughout many parts of the world and that FWC is working hard to prevent overharvesting.