Louisa County man trafficked $13,000 worth of turtles on Facebook Marketplace
New regulations from Virginia’s wildlife agency ban keeping box turtles as pets. The move is aimed primarily at poachers, but it also affects everyday children and adults. This turtle was photographed crawling through Charles City County Nov. 1, 2012. (J.D. Kleopfer/ Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources)
A Louisa County man amassed nearly $13,000 selling box turtles on Facebook Marketplace, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Stanlee Fazi, 41, pleaded guilty to trafficking turtles in a federal court in Alexandria after admitting he illegally collected the animals from the wild, bound them in socks and shipped them by FedEx to online buyers across the country on at least 27 occasions from 2017 to 2020.
The buyers, he said, would smuggle the turtles from the U.S. to Hong Kong and China as part of the illegal pet trade.
The trafficking of the animals violated the federal Lacey Act, which prohibits the interstate transportation or sale of any wildlife captured or possessed illegally under state law and carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Virginia banned the catching of box turtles, as well as other common reptiles and amphibians, from the wild in 2021 because of declining populations and mistreatment by pet owners.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service offices in Baltimore and Vero Beach, Florida, conducted the investigation as part of “Operation Middleman,” which focused on the trafficking of reptiles from the U.S. to China.
Also referred to as eastern box turtles, the colorful reptiles reside in forested regions of the eastern U.S. and can grow up to 6 inches long and live more than 100 years. The box turtle’s namesake comes from the “box”-like appearance the animal assumes when it retreats into its yellow and orange-splotched shell. Those with more colorful markings are particularly prized in domestic and foreign pet trade markets.
Fazi’s sentencing is scheduled for July 26.
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