By Julius Whigham II
A 52-year-old Riviera Beach man convicted of poaching more than 300 sea turtle eggs was sentenced Thursday to two years in federal prison, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Kenneth Cornelius Coleman pleaded guilty in March to one count of unlawfully transporting endangered sea turtle eggs. On Thursday, U.S District Judge William Zloch sentenced Coleman to 24 months in prison. He also ordered that the sentence run consecutively to a 12-month sentence Coleman received for violating the terms of his release in a previous turtle egg poaching case.
Zloch also sentenced Coleman to three years of supervised released, the maximum under the statute. According to court documents, Coleman was linked to the discovery of more than 300 sea turtle eggs that were found last July at a beach in Juno Beach.
In one instance last July, officers found a wooden stick that appeared to have been used to probe turtle nests and a canvas bag that contained 213 sea turtle eggs. The following day, officers found a backpack containing 97 eggs. DNA samples collected from the canvas bag matched the DNA profile that had previously been obtained from Coleman, prosecutors said.
On the second day of the poaching discovery, officers also found Coleman in a nearby area of the beach.
Before he was advised of the charges, Coleman reportedly told officers that he knew nothing about sea turtle eggs.
A biologist and sea turtle expert found that one of the nest disturbed was Green Sea Turtle nest, and three others were Loggerhead Sea Turtle nests. Both species are protected under federal law.
The eggs had a black market retail value of between $948 and $1,580.
Coleman had previously pleaded guilty to sea turtle egg poaching in in 2010. In that case, he was sentenced to 30 months in prison.