Lacey Act: Turtles & Butterflies


A Florida man pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal criminal charges for conspiring to illegally export thousands of turtles to Germany and Hong Kong, and falsifying documents to conceal his conduct.

In other Lacey Act News, a 75 year old lepidopterist in New York pleaded guilty to smuggling rare birdwing butterflies.

Turtle Smuggling

In Florida, John Michael Kreatsoulas, 36 and his co-conspirators collected and captured various species of turtles, including three-stripe mud turtles and Florida mud turtles, from the wild in Florida and sold those turtles to interstate and foreign customers.

Mr. Kreatsoulas  pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to traffic wildlife and nine counts of falsifying records in violation of the Lacey Act.

From July 2015 to July 2021, Kreatsoulas was the owner and principal of Omni Reptiles, Inc., an unregistered Florida business located in Alva, Florida. Omni was in the business of domestic and international wholesale trade of wildlife, including protected species of reptiles.

Kreatsoulas falsified U.S Fish and Wildlife Service Forms 3-177, which accompanied the international shipments, by including a false “Source” code attesting that the turtles were captive-bred and not wild-caught. Kreatsoulas also falsified invoices related to the sale of the turtles, which purported to show that the turtles sold to co-conspirators in Florida and outside the United States were “captive-bred” hatchling three-stripe mud turtles when, in fact, they were taken from the wild by Kreatsoulas and his co-conspirators. 

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for May 17.   Kreatsoulas faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison for each count.

Butterflies aren't Free

In New York, a a 75 year old lepidopterist pleaded guilty to smuggling rare birdwing butterflies. Charles Limmer, 75, agreed to pay a $30,215 penalty as well as hand over his collection of roughly 1,000 butterflies, moths and other insects. He faces up to 5 years in prison when sentenced.

Mr. Limmer operated a commercial business importing, exporting, purchasing, and selling wildlife, including protected species of butterflies. In 2016, the Limmer Business obtained a license to import and export wildlife from the FWS. The FWS suspended the license in October 2022.

Between October 2022 and September 2023, Limmer illegally imported and exported over $200,000 worth of shipments of deceased wildlife specimens.  Limmer sold the unlawfully imported wildlife on Internet platforms to customers located around the world. 

To conceal the scheme, Limmer directed his co-conspirators to label the shipments of wildlife as “decorative wall coverings,” “origami paper craft” and “wall decorations.”  He also noted to one co-conspirator, “Screw USFWS[….] They are a gang of Orangutans.” 


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