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Pennsylvania man sentenced for trafficking protected turtles

August 29, 2019

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A Pennsylvania man has been sentenced to six months in prison for trafficking protected turtles.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania says David Sommers on Thursday was also ordered to pay $250,000 in restitution for poaching thousands of protected diamondback terrapins and their eggs from coastal marshes in New Jersey and illegally selling them.

In a deal with prosecutors, Sommers pleaded guilty in February to false-labeling of packages containing terrapins.

Diamondback terrapins are a semi-aquatic species of turtle native to brackish waters in eastern and southern United States. They aren’t found in Pennsylvania, where Sommers resided, but have a dwindling habitat range in New Jersey.

Terrapins are prized in the reptile pet trade for their unique shell markings. The turtles are protected under New Jersey law and by international treaty.

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