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FWC arrests seven after wildlife trafficking investigation in Florida

Published: Oct. 19, 2020 at 5:22 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - Seven people arrested after a year-long investigation by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

According to the FWC, 3,600 flying squirrels were smuggled from the Sunshine State, being sent to a South Korean buyer. Investigators say they received an anonymous tip in January 2019 that led to the arrested and 25 total charges.

“Up to 10,000 traps were used to catch the squirrels and over 3,600 were shipped overseas to be sold as exotic pets for hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said the FWC in a press release.

FWC says the dealer received as much as $213,800 in gross illegal proceeds, while they estimate that the international retail value of the poached wildlife will exceed $1 million.

Investigators found an operation that saw South Korean buyers travel to the United States to buy the flying squirrels from a wildlife dealer in Bushnell. The animals were then transported to Chicago, where they would be shipped to Asia. When the operation expanded, couriers in Georgia were also used.

The FWC found out that the Florida suspects were also dealing in protected freshwater turtles and alligators.

“A State and Federal Task Force was created and was instrumental in accomplishing this operation,” said Maj. Grant Burton, FWC Investigation’s section leader.

“Wildlife conservation laws protect Florida’s precious natural resources from abuse. The concerned citizen who initially reported this activity started an investigation that uncovered a major smuggling operation. These poachers could have severely damaged Florida’s wildlife populations,” said Maj. Burton.

Here is a complete break down of the charge list from the FWC:

Rodney Crendell Knox (DOB 04/15/1954) Bushnell, Florida

  • Racketeering
  • Conspiracy to Commit Racketeering
  • Money Laundering
  • Scheme to Defraud
  • Grand Theft
  • Dealing in Stolen Property

Kenneth Lee Roebuck (DOB 03/02/1961) Lake Panasoffkee, Florida

  • Racketeering
  • Conspiracy to Commit Racketeering
  • Scheme to Defraud
  • Grand Theft
  • Dealing in Stolen Property

Donald Lee Harrod Jr. (DOB 02/04/1971) Bushnell, Florida

  • Racketeering
  • Conspiracy to Commit Racketeering
  • Scheme to Defraud
  • Grand Theft
  • Dealing in Stolen Property

Vester Ray Taylor Jr. (DOB 03/30/1980) Webster, Florida

  • Conspiracy to Commit Racketeering
  • Dealing in Stolen Property

Jong Yun Baek (DOB 05/02/1964) Marietta, Georgia

  • Conspiracy to Commit Racketeering

Ervin Woodyard Jr. (DOB 8/10/1980) Greenville, Georgia

  • Unlawful Possession of Wildlife (Georgia DNR)
  • Violation of Probation (Trafficking a Person for Sexual Servitude - Georgia)

Unnamed Fugitive

  • Racketeering
  • Conspiracy to Commit Racketeering
  • Scheme to Defraud
  • Grand Theft
  • Dealing in Stolen Property

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