Florida reptile store owner accused of turtle trafficking
A Davie man who served federal prison time for purchasing contraband wildlife has now been charged with uprooting protected Florida turtles from the wild and smuggling them overseas to the United States. China, Japan and other countries.
Michael Van Nostrand, president of Hollywood’s Strictly Reptiles., Was charged last week with conspiracy to illegally traffic in wildlife in interstate and foreign commerce.
In 1997, Van Nostrand was sentenced to eight months with a fine of $ 7,500 for conspiring to import species of wildlife without a valid permit and two counts of prohibited acts with an endangered species.
Brian Christy’s 2008 book “The Lizard King” focused on the pursuit of Van Nostrand by US Fish and Wildlife Service agent Chip Bepler.
Federal prosecutors now allege Van Nostrand and his cohorts removed certain species of Florida turtles from their natural habitats and sold them to buyers in Louisiana, California, China and Japan as “captive-bred” turtles to cover up illegal activity.
The turtles most often involved, prosecutors said, were the three-banded mud turtles (Kinosternon baurii) and musk turtles (Sternotherus odoratus).
Among the 30 manifest acts alleged from April 15, 2017 to February 12, 2019, were:
▪ Van Nostrand texts a cooperating source asking for at least 30 Three Banded Mud Turtles:
▪ Van Nostrand buying 59 three-banded mud turtles, 10 common mud turtles and two wild-caught softshell turtles, all wild-caught, with a check for $ 970 drawn on the Strictly Reptiles account;
▪ A co-conspirator took 292 wild-caught three-banded mud turtles to Miami International Airport for shipment to Shanghai, China, with a customs declaration saying they had come from captivity.
Van Nostrand’s attorneys did not resend an email from the Miami Herald on Wednesday afternoon.
This story was originally published October 6, 2021 3:00 p.m.