JUNO BEACH, Fla. - A man has pleaded guilty in a sea turtle egg case in Juno Beach.
The U.S. Attorney's office says 52-year-old Kenneth Cornelius Coleman of Riviera Beach pleaded guilty to one count of unlawfully transporting endangered sea turtle eggs.
According to the U.S. Attorney's office, in July of 2013, the Loggerhead Marine Life Center's beach and sea turtle surveyors found sea turtle nests had been disturbed near the beach crossover at 840 Ocean Drive in Juno Beach. Six turtle eggs were found in a trail in the sand and probing marks could be seen near the disturbed nests.
Nearby, Juno Beach Police officers found a wooden stick and three canvas bags. One bag was found to contain 213 sea turtle eggs. Investigators used DNA analysis to link the bag to Coleman. Coleman had previously given DNA samples to officers in another case.
Experts from the Loggerhead Marine Life Center examined the eggs and found one of them disturbed areas was a green sea turtle nest, an endangered species. The other three nests disturbed were from loggerhead sea turtles, a threatened species.
His acts are in violation of the Lacey Act, and sea turtle eggs are protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Experts buried 219 eggs again in an effort to help them mature and hatch.
The next day and not far from the first site, four more disturbed sea turtle nests were found at the beach crossover near 70 Celestial Way. They were found to be three loggerhead sea turtle nests and one green sea turtle nest. A backpack with 97 sea turtle eggs was discovered by police, and experts again reburied the eggs.
Coleman was found on the beach nearby. When he was detained by officers on suspicion of sea turtle egg poaching, officers say, Coleman spontaneously said, "I don't know nothing about no turtle eggs."
The eggs are illegal contraband, which makes it difficult to know the exact black market value, but the Fish and Wildlife Service believes it is $3 to $5 per egg. For the 316 total sea turtle eggs found in this case, the value is between $948 and $1,580.
WPTV has covered Coleman in the past. He pleaded guilty to violating the Lacey Act by transporting endangered sea turtle eggs in 2010 and he was sentenced to 30 months in prison. CLICK TO LINK TO PREVIOUS COVERAGE.
In the most recent case when he is sentenced, Coleman faces up to five years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine and up to three years of supervised release.