A Virginia man has pleaded guilty in federal court to trafficking turtles.
Stanlee Fazi, 41, of Louisa, Virginia, admitted that between July 31, 2017, and June 29, 2020, he illegally collected eastern box turtles from the wild and sold them on at least 27 occasions to buyers in California, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin.
Fazi received approximately $12,700 using Facebook Marketplace for these sales. Many of Fazi’s purchasers, in turn, smuggled the turtles from the United States to Hong Kong and China for the illegal pet trade.
Fazi acknowledged binding the turtles in socks and shipping them by FedEx from Fredericksburg.
The federal Lacey Act is the nation’s oldest wildlife trafficking statute and prohibits, among other things, transporting or selling wildlife in interstate commerce if the wildlife were illegally taken or possessed under state laws. The Commonwealth of Virginia also prohibits taking turtles from the wild or selling them.
The maximum sentence under the Lacey Act is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Fazi's attorney Edward J. Ungvarsky gave this statement to FOX 5:
"Mr Fazi loves turtles, and publicly sold a small number of turtles that he found over several years to fellow aficionados here in the United States. He never intended for any of them to be resold at any point to become pets in Asia."
The eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) is a subspecies of the common box turtle (Terrapene carolina). The eastern box turtle is native to forested regions of the eastern United States, including Virginia, with some isolated populations in the Midwest.
The turtles typically reach a length of up to six inches and can live more than 100 years. The turtles have a domed carapace, which can display radiated lines or spots. Turtles with colorful markings are particularly prized in the domestic and foreign pet trade market.