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Mobtown Beat

"Operation Shellshock" Goes After Turtle Deluxe—and Much More

By Van Smith | Posted 3/19/2009

Today in New York, environmental officials unveiled "Operation Shellshock," revealing that the January raid on a turtle factory on Maryland's Eastern Shore was part of a much broader international effort to enforce laws against black-market trading in protected turtles, rattlesnakes, and salamanders.

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced that the two-year undercover investigation, coordinated with federal agencies in the United States and Canada and state officials in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Florida, has resulted in charges against 18 people.

Michael Vincent Johnson, owner of Turtle Deluxe-the Eastern Shore factory-is not among those charged. However, the DEC press release explains that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Attorney's Office in Western New York "are pursuing Federal Lacey Act charges against a Maryland meat processor for the knowing purchase of illegally trapped New York State snapping turtles."

"Investigators found thousands of New York turtles being laundered through `middlemen' in other states, then getting shipped overseas for meat and other uses," the press release contends.

"Our investigators began this operation with a simple question: Is there a commercial threat to our critical wildlife species? What they found was alarming," DEC commissioner Pete Grannis' statement reads. "A very lucrative illegal market for these creatures does exist, fostered by a strong, clandestine culture of people who want to exploit wildlife for illegal profit."

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Fear the Turtle : A federal raid in Maryland shows how common snapping turtles can have an uncommon bite 3/18/2009

Tags: snapping turtle, turtle deluxe, lacey act, operation shellshock

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