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Old 10-19-2020, 04:15 PM   #4
bcr229
https://www.winknews.com/2020/10/19/...ected-animals/

October 19, 2020

FWC nabs suspects in smuggling of flying squirrels, other protected animals

Seven people are facing felony charges in Florida after they smuggled Florida wildlife to foreign buyers, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) said Monday.

The group of suspects has been charged with racketeering, money laundering, and scheming to defraud, among others.

In January 2019, the FWC received a complaint from a concerned citizen about individuals illegally trapping flying squirrels in a rural area of Marion County. Flying squirrels, a protected wild animal in Florida, are sold internationally in the pet trade. Over the next 19 months, FWC investigators pieced together an elaborate scheme in which flying squirrels were illegally captured by poachers in multiple counties throughout central Florida. The flying squirrels were then sold to a wildlife dealer in Bushnell and were laundered through the licensed business of this dealer, who claimed they were captive bred.

The poachers deployed as many as 10,000 squirrel traps throughout central Florida and as many as 3,600 flying squirrels were captured in less than three years. In three years, the wildlife dealer received as much as $213,800 in gross illegal proceeds. The FWC estimates the international retail value of the poached wildlife will exceed $1 million.

Investigators learned buyers from South Korea would travel to the United States and purchase the flying squirrels from the wildlife dealer in Bushnell. The animals were then driven in rental cars to Chicago, where the source of the animals was further concealed, and the animals were exported to Asia by an unwitting international wildlife exporter. As the operation expanded, couriers from the state of Georgia would take over the transports. One Georgia courier would fly to Orlando, rent a vehicle and drive the animals to Atlanta. A second hired courier would then drive the animals to Chicago. Each of the new participants would not know the identity of the other suspects.

As FWC investigators monitored the operation, they learned the Florida suspects were dealing in multiple species of poached animals. Protected freshwater turtles and alligators were illegally taken and laundered through other seemingly legitimate licensed businesses. Documents were falsified concealing the true source of the wildlife.

The Illinois Conservation Police, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and Homeland Security Investigations worked together to collect evidence of the international smuggling operation. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife was also instrumental in intercepting wildlife shipments to California. The FWC investigators detected illegally taken freshwater turtles were shipped from Tampa International Airport to Los Angeles. California agents were notified and intercepted the wildlife shipments.

FWC Charge List:

Rodney Crendell Knox (DOB 04/15/1954) Bushnell, Florida
•Racketeering
•Conspiracy to Commit Racketeering
•Money Laundering
•Scheme to Defraud
•Grand Theft
•Dealing in Stolen Property

Kenneth Lee Roebuck (DOB 03/02/1961) Lake Panasoffkee, Florida
•Racketeering
•Conspiracy to Commit Racketeering
•Scheme to Defraud
•Grand Theft
•Dealing in Stolen Property

Donald Lee Harrod Jr. (DOB 02/04/1971) Bushnell, Florida
•Racketeering
•Conspiracy to Commit Racketeering
•Scheme to Defraud
•Grand Theft
•Dealing in Stolen Property

Vester Ray Taylor Jr. (DOB 03/30/1980) Webster, Florida
•Conspiracy to Commit Racketeering
•Dealing in Stolen Property

Jong Yun Baek (DOB 05/02/1964) Marietta, Georgia
•Conspiracy to Commit Racketeering

Ervin Woodyard Jr. (DOB 8/10/1980) Greenville, Georgia
•Unlawful Possession of Wildlife (Georgia DNR)
•Violation of Probation (Trafficking a Person for Sexual Servitude – Georgia)

Unnamed Fugitive
•Racketeering
•Conspiracy to Commit Racketeering
•Scheme to Defraud
•Grand Theft
•Dealing in Stolen Property