TULSA, Okla. (KFOR) – A New Jersey man pleaded guilty to conspiring with others to purchase, transport and sell more than 1,000 box turtles that were illegally collected in Oklahoma.
According to the Department of Justice, 26-year-old William T. Gangemi “knowingly facilitated the purchase and transport of unlawfully collected three-toed and western (ornate) box turtles from Oklahoma to New Jersey in order to sell them for profit” from May 1, 2017 to May 31, 2018.
On Wednesday, Gangemi, of Freehold, New Jersey, pleaded guilty in federal court.
Officials say Gangemi was part of a group of wildlife smugglers where protected turtles were exchanged back and forth between the U.S. and China.
By smuggling the turtles, Gangemi violated the Lacey Act, a federal law which makes it a felony to engage in the sale or purchase of protected wildlife with a market value in excess of $350 knowing that the wildlife was taken, possessed, transported or sold in violation of laws or regulations of any state.
In Oklahoma, the collection of both types of box turtles for commercial purposes is against the law.
As part of his plea agreement, Gangemi agreed to pay $250,000 in restitution to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and a $100,000 fine to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for violation of the Lacey Act. The final restitution and fine amounts will be determined at the time of sentencing, which is scheduled for Jan. 27, 2020.
Gangemi also pleaded guilty to additional federal charges for trafficking wildlife in South Carolina and New Jersey.