Lewis Jackson Sr., 58, of Brunswick, pleaded guilty Wednesday to acquiring loggerhead sea turtle eggs, in violation of the Lacey Act, and could be sentenced to as long as five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
According to evidence presented before Chief United States District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood, Jackson took over 150 loggerhead sea turtle eggs from nests on Sapelo Island in May, 2012. When seized from Jackson, the loggerhead eggs were packaged in a manner indicating they would be sold to others.
Loggerhead eggs fetch as much as $15 per egg on the black market.
It unlawful for any person to acquire, receive, and transport loggerhead sea turtle eggs, as loggerheads are endangered species.
"Loggerhead sea turtles are a national treasure that must be protected from plunder for our enjoyment and that of future generations," U.S. Attorney Edward Tarver said.
In addition to the eggs, investigators said they recovered a small amount of marijuana from a duffle bag Lewis was carrying on the ferry off Sapalo Island and a handgun was recovered from his car.
"This case is an excellent example of the cooperative investigative efforts between the Georgia Department of Natural Resource Division of Law Enforcement, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement, and each agencies commitment to investigate and interdict the commercialization of endangered and other protected wildlife species," said Edward Grace, deputy chief of law enforcement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "We take very seriously our mission to support our state counterpart wildlife enforcement agencies and we will continue to concentrate on and aggressively pursue individuals who are involved in the illegal trade of protected species of wildlife."
The date for Jackson's sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled.