Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news for working families.  An online newspaper

Florida News

Feds Net Illegal Traffickers of Florida Marine Life: US Attorney Prosecutes Michigan Residents

Combo rock containing product illegally collected or sold from the FL Keys. Photo: USFWS

Key West, FL – Joseph Franko, 35, of Romulus, Michigan, was sentenced yesterday in Key West for conspiring to purchase, transport, harvest and sell sea fans, ornamental tropical fish and alligators, knowing the wildlife was taken, possessed, transported, sold, and intended to be sold in violation of the laws and regulations of Florida and the United States.

United States District Judge Jose E. Martinez, who had previously accepted Franko’s guilty plea, imposed a sentence of five months in prison, followed by five months of home confinement with electronic monitoring, and a two year term of supervised release. The Court determined that he was unable to pay a criminal fine.

Franko’s co-defendant, Richard Perrin, 80, also of Romulus, was sentenced in April in the same case to a three year term of probation, a criminal fine of $15,000, and forfeiture of the vehicle used in the commission of the Lacey Act violations.

A seized baby alligator illegally collected from Big Cypress National Preserve and later sold to undercover agents.

According to the indictment and statements submitted to the Court, during the period extending from December 2008 through approximately December 2011, Perrin and Franko engaged in a conspiracy to purchase, harvest, and transport marine life and reptiles from Florida to Michigan for sale through a business known as Tropicorium, Inc.

Perrin was the owner of Tropicorium. Franko was an employee. Tropicorium was engaged in the purchase and retail sale of marine life and reptiles, including sharks, marine invertebrates, sea fans, ornamental tropical fish, and alligators.

The defendants admitted that they failed to acquire or possess the licenses required by Florida Statute for the marine life they harvested during multiple trips to the Florida Keys. The sea fans taken by the defendants and sold in Michigan are prohibited from being harvested from Florida waters or the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Perrin and Franko also made stops while en route to and from the Keys in the area of Big Cypress National Preserve, where they illegally poached juvenile alligators to sell through Tropicorium.

Unknown to the defendants, on one occasion they actually sold a baby alligator and illegal sea fans from a Florida harvesting trip to an undercover Special Agent of the Fish & Wildlife Service. The two defendants also utilized a facility on Grassy Key as a maintenance base for their harvested marine life until they were ready to ship or transport the specimens to Michigan for sale.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas Watts-FitzGerald and Antonia Barnes.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service press release

 Photos: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Comments  (to add a comment go here) 

This work by the Columbia County Observer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.


Make a comment • click here •
All comments are displayed at the end of the article and are moderated.