LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- Federal prosecutors said a Nevada resident plead guilty in Miami, Florida on Thursday "for conduct that involved the purchase and sale" of a Galapagos tortoise.
The tortoise was possessed, transported and sold in violation of the Endangered Species Act and the federal Lacey Act, prosecutors said. The man who plead guilty was Alan Francisco Wheelock, 33, of Las Vegas.
Wheelock was sentenced to a two-year term of probation, with a special condition that serve 120 days of home confinement. According to prosecutors, the court imposed a $7,000 fine that would be directed to the Lacey Act Reward Account. The court also ordered that Wheelock perform 100 hours of community service.
Charges against the co-defendant and Wheelock's cousin, Maurico M. Perez, a Miami resident, were dismissed due to his death after the return of the indictment, federal prosecutors said.
On Aug. 27, 2018, an investigator and K9 officer with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Division of Law Enforcement was alerted to a suspicious parcel at a Miami-area FedEx store.
According to prosecutors, upon inspection of the package, it was revealed to be an ESA-listed, juvenile Galapagos tortoise being shipped to Las Vegas by Wheelock. In August 2018, he visited a website for reptile enthusiasts.
Wheelock saw an advertisement on the site by a licensed breeder offering "Galapagos hatchlings" for sale, federal prosecutors said. The website also stated that a "CBW (captive-bred wildlife registration permit) is required if you are outside Florida - valid proof required... make sure your CBW is up to date - I will check with proper authorities."
Prosecutors said Wheelock contacted Perez on Facebook and requested that he contact the breeder, pose as an in-state buyer and a acquire a baby Galapagos tortoise. Wheelock allegedly offered Perez $400 to drive to the breeder's facility in central Florida.
Wheelock wired Perez $4,500 into the latter's bank account, and on Aug. 25, 2018, Perez drove to Miami, met with the breeder and withdrew $4,300 from his account. According to federal prosecutors, while at the breeder's facility, Perez posted video clips and photos to his Facebook account, which included visuals of Galapagos tortoises.
Perez paid the breeder $3,900 in exchange for a baby Galapagos tortoise, which he then transported back to Miami, federal prosecutors said. Two days later, Perez was seen on surveillance footage presenting the box containing the tortoise to a FedEx facility in Miami.
On Aug. 28, Wheelock "took delivery of the parcel" containing the reptile at a FedEx store in Las Vegas and was caught on videotape. According to prosecutors, Wheelock was also being surveyed in person by a special agent with Fish and Wildlife Service.
The tortoise was transferred to FWS and returned to Florida.