Wednesday 9 March 2016

California couple plead guilty to smuggling 911 sea turtle eggs from Mexico – via Herp Digest

Sunday February 20, 2016 By Tony Barboza, Los Angeles Times (TNS)  

LOS ANGELES — A Southern California couple has pleaded guilty to smuggling 911 endangered sea turtle eggs from Mexico into the United States, federal prosecutors said.

Olga Jimenez, 52, and Jose Jimenez, 64, of Hemet admitted last week to smuggling the eggs by bus from Nayarit, Mexico, in 2014 and concealing them in coolers under layers of fish, shrimp and ice so they could be transported by pickup across the border in Tijuana, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. 

The eggs were harvested from olive ridley and Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, which are protected in Mexico and the U.S. under the Endangered Species Act and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, prosecutors said.

As part of pleading guilty to the charges, which included smuggling, unlawful trafficking of wildlife and conspiracy, the couple agreed to forfeit the eggs and pay the Mexican government up to $9,000 in restitution.

Sea turtles are vulnerable to poaching during mass nesting events called arribadas, in which females each lay about 100 eggs and bury them in sand.

Because sea turtle eggs are considered a delicacy and aphrodisiac, they can be sold for $100 to $300 apiece, according to prosecutors.

The Jimenezes were ordered to appear before a judge in May for sentencing. They could face penalties of up to $250,000 and 20 years in prison.

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