Florida men accused of poaching thousands of turtles as part of wildlife trafficking ring

Two suspects are accused of gathering thousands of turtles from the wild in Florida, many of which were sent to Asia to be sold as pets. (Source: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission/CNN)

(CNN) – Officials in Florida have charged two suspects for allegedly poaching thousands of native turtles.

It’s the result of an undercover investigation that began last February, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) announced Friday.

Officials documented more than 4,000 turtles that were taken out of the wild and sold over a six-month period.

Michael Boesenberg and Michael Clemons of Fort Myers, Florida, are facing multiple charges related to the alleged scheme, according to FWC.

Authorities said the suspects are part of an organized ring that collected so many turtles, they had to move to different parts of the state to find more.

Removing the native turtles can wreak havoc on fragile ecosystems.

Authorities said most of the captured turtles were sent to Asia, where they can sell for as much as $10,000 each in the pet trade.

More than 600 of the turtles have been returned to the wild.

Experts said the illegal wildlife trade in the U.S. is worth $19 billion annually.

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