KEY WEST, Fla. (WWJ/AP) - A Romulus man has been sentenced to five months in prison for his role in a South Florida wildlife trafficking operation that included the poaching of baby alligators.
Joseph Franko, 35, received his punishment Monday in Key West after guilty to wildlife trafficking offenses involving alligators, tropical fish and sea fans. U.S. District Judge Jose Martinez also ordered Franko to serve five months of home confinement with electronic monitoring, in addition to a two-year term of supervised release.
Authorities say from Dec. 2008 through Dec. 2011, Franko and 80-year-old Richard Perrin conspired to import the wildlife from Florida to Tropicorium, a Romulus-based business that sells marine life and reptiles. Perrin was the owner of Tropicorium, engaged in the day-to-day management and operation of the corporation, while Franko was an employee.
According to court documents, Franko and Perrin admitted that they failed to acquire the proper licenses to harvest marine life, that would later be sold at Tropicorium, during their multiple trips to the Florida Keys.
The government said the pair harvested protected sea fans from Florida waters, along with illegally poaching juvenile alligators near the Big Cypress National Preserve. Unbeknown to the men, on one occasion they actually sold a baby alligator and illegal sea fans to an undercover U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent, according to court documents.
Perrin was sentenced in March the same case to three years of probation and fined $15,000.