Four men have been charged in the alleged illegal capture and exchange of 2,100 pounds of live, wild-caught turtles.
A Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission investigation was launched in March after the arrest of My Van Vo, 31, of Lakeland, who was caught on Lake Apopka near Orlando with 87 softshell turtles weighing in excess of 500 pounds. The subsequent investigation throughout Polk and Seminole counties netted two other men and an Okeechobee freshwater turtle farmer.
FWC investigators said the men were poaching freshwater turtles on Lake Marion, Lake Haines, Crooked Lake and Lake Walk-In-Water as well as from the St. Johns River. The two men were said to be transporting and selling their illegal catch to Harden and Son’s Turtle Farm in Okeechobee.
Canh Van Nguyen, 48, of Lakeland, and Lieng Su Pham, 69, of Winter Haven, have been charged with two felonies and four misdemeanors. The owner of the turtle farm, Franklin Gene Harden, 55, of Okeechobee, was charged with three felonies and four misdemeanors.
“Turtles are a popular, commercially available food item throughout much of the world and, as a result, overharvest has occurred in many countries,” said Lt. George Wilson, who led the effort. “To prevent overharvest here, the FWC proactively banned commercial harvest of all native wild turtles in 2009.”