By Eric Kiefer
The Jersey City resident must forfeit more than 40 turtles and pay a $30,450 fine to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
A Hudson County man admitted to trafficking threatened turtle species that are protected under New Jersey state law on Tuesday.
Patrick Elfers, 48, of Jersey City, pled guilty to violating the Lacey Act, which prohibits the interstate sale of wildlife with a market value of more $350 that has been taken or possessed in violation of any state law or regulation.
According to court documents, from December 2011 through March 2014, Elfers kept various turtle species, including spotted turtles, North American wood turtles, and Eastern box turtles, at his home without the required permits under state law.
Elfers then advertised the turtles on wildlife trade websites to prospective purchasers, shipping turtles to purchasers in New York by tying them in tube socks to restrict their movement and packing them in boxes that were neither designed nor appropriate for the shipment of live animals, prosecutors stated.
According to a release, New Jersey’s Endangered and Nongame Species Act prohibits the taking, possession, transportation, exportation or sale of spotted turtles, North American wood turtles and Eastern box turtles, among other species.
New Jersey has designated the North American wood turtle as threatened because it is a vulnerable species that could become endangered. The spotted turtle and Eastern box turtle are listed as species of “special concern,” the release stated.
The charges carry a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
As part of his plea agreement, Elfers must forfeit more than 40 turtles and pay a fine of
$30,450 to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Lacey Act Reward Fund. He must also relinquish 10 Eastern box turtles and any additional turtles or tortoises in his possession, including three Gulf Coast box turtles, one African spur thigh tortoise, and one elongated tortoise.
He was released on a $50,000 unsecured bond. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 29.