BRUNSWICK, GEORGIA- Lewis Jackson, 61, of Brunswick, Georgia was sentenced today by Chief United States District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood to serve 21 months in prison on his second conviction for violating the Lacey Act by stealing viable sea turtle eggs from Sapelo Island, Georgia. The Lacey Act forbids the stealing and transporting of endangered species, including loggerhead sea turtle eggs. Back in 2013, Jackson was sentenced to 6 months in prison for his first Lacey Act conviction.
According to evidence presented during the guilty plea and sentencing hearings, on July 6, 2015, a Wildlife Technician with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Sea Turtle Program discovered that 84 loggerhead sea turtle eggs from a nest on Sapelo Island, Georgia were missing. Law enforcement determined that one of the visitors to the island that day was Jackson, who had stolen over 150 loggerhead turtle eggs in 2012. The next day, on July 7, Jackson was arrested trying to leave the island with a cooler full of sea turtle eggs. Jackson appeared to have wrapped the eggs with the intent to sell them. Loggerhead eggs now fetch as much as $25 per egg on the black market. Because of Jackson’s handling of the turtle eggs, they were no longer viable and were therefore destroyed. Sea turtles are long-lived and slow to reach maturity. Pressures from the illegal harvesting of eggs and the poaching of adults worsen the extinction risk faced by these animals. In Georgia, the loggerhead sea turtle is listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act and is the most common sea turtle which nests on Sapelo Island.
United States Attorney Edward Tarver said, “After a prison sentence 3 (1/2) times longer than his first, this defendant should finally get the message that when you seek to profit by unlawfully exploiting our endangered species and national treasures, your next stop will be a federal prison.”
“This multi-agency investigation highlights the importance the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources place on protecting our nation’s most imperiled species from unlawful harvest and illegal commercialization, and the effectiveness of the Lacey Act in implementing those protections,” said Luis Santiago, Special Agent in Charge, Southeast Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement. “This case and today’s sentencing demonstrate that those seeking financial gain at the expense of our protected wildlife resources will be caught and held accountable.”
“We appreciate the cooperation from the other agencies in bringing this case to a successful close,” said Colonel Eddie Henderson, director of Georgia DNR’s Law Enforcement Division. “I hope this sends a message that crimes that negatively impact wildlife, or any of our natural resources, won’t be tolerated in Georgia.”
This case was investigated by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and the United States Probation Office. Assistant United States Attorney E. Greg Gilluly, Jr. prosecuted the case on behalf of the United States. Please direct any additional questions to First Assistant United States Attorney James D. Durham at (912) 201-2547.