Chestertown man pleads guilty to trafficking turtles for meat

Undercover agents in N.Y. sold him protected species

January 25, 2012|By Steve Kilar, The Baltimore Sun

A Chestertown man pleaded guilty this week in a New York federal court to trafficking live snapping turtles that he processed in Queen Anne's County and then sold as turtle meat.

Michael V. Johnson, 57, faces a maximum of one year in prison for turning the wildlife into food at his business in Millington called Turtle Deluxe Inc., according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of New York in Buffalo.

During 2007 and 2008, the statement said, Johnson purchased common snapping turtles — considered protected wildlife under New York law — from sellers in several states, brought them back to the Turtle Deluxe facility to sort and weigh and then paid the vendors based on weight.

Twice Johnson bought turtles from undercover agents in New York and took them back to Millington. He sold those turtles' meat for more than $8,000, the statement said.

In addition to jail time, Johnson faces a $100,000 fine. He has already donated $18,000 to turtle conservation and research programs since being charged for wildlife trafficking.

Johnson is scheduled to be sentenced May 1.

steve.kilar@baltsun.com

twitter.com/stevekilar

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