Theft of sea-turtle eggs sends two Riviera men to prison

Updated Jan 31, 2018
Cobb (left) and Saunders

Two Riviera Beach men have been sentenced to seven months apiece in federal prison for stealing more than 670 sea turtle eggs from a beach in St. Lucie County, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami said Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra also sentenced Carl Lawrence Cobb, 60, and Raymond Saunders, 50, to two years of supervised release when their prison terms are done. Cobb was convicted on two counts of transporting sea turtle eggs for the purpose of sale and Saunders was convicted on one count of the same charge.

Both Cobb and Saunders were sentenced Friday, court records show.

Why steal sea turtle eggs: Thriving black market in Palm Beach County

According to court records, Cobb stole sea turtle eggs from nests on North Hutchinson Island on two separate dates in May 2017, and Saunders joined him one on one of the days. They were arrested as they were taking the eggs to Palm Beach County. The recovered eggs were relocated by marine biologists in hopes that some would yield hatchlings.

Sea turtles species are considered either endangered or threatened, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. They are protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act of 1973 and Florida’s Marine Turtle Protection Act.

Authorities have described a thriving black market for sea turtle eggs in South Florida. The market serves people from cultures that consider the eggs to be a delicacy. About one to two people in Florida are arrested for sea turtle egg poaching each year.

Authorities say the eggs can sell for $3 to $5 apiece, or $20 to $30 by the dozen. By those estimates, the eggs Cobb and Saunders stole were worth as much as $3,300.

In July 2016, a Tequesta man was caught stealing 107 Loggerhead sea turtle eggs from a Jupiter Island beach. Glenn Shaw, 50, was placed on three years of probation after he pleaded guilty to the charges, court records show.

In 2014, a Riviera Beach man was caught with 299 eggs on Hutchinson Island. James McGriff, a repeat offender, was sentenced in February 2015 to 14 months in prison.