FWC uncovers illegal alligator egg-harvesting operation

- An undercover operation by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) officers uncovered an illegal alligator egg-harvesting operation in Manatee County. 

Nine suspects face multiple felony charges related to everything from interstate transportation of alligator eggs and hatchlings to falsifying records to racketeering. Alligator eggs can be sold for $40-$60 each.

The suspects were arrested Wednesday, ending an operation dating back to 2015. FWC undercover officers said they managed to infiltrate the alligator farming community to gain information and evidence about poachers.

During the investigation, officers documented more than 10,000 illegally harvested alligator eggs. The suspects were charged with a total of 44 felonies, including violations of Florida’s laws regarding possession of American alligators, alligator egg harvesting, interstate transport of alligator eggs and hatchlings, falsifying official records, dealing in stolen property, conspiracy to commit racketeering, racketeering and other wildlife violations.

One suspect was also charged with a first-degree misdemeanor count of trying to take a white ibis.

Alligator eggs can be harvested, but a permit is required and it can only be done in certain areas. FWC said regulations are in place to protect and manage Florida's natural resources and violations of these laws pose "serious environmental and economic consequences."

FWC said this investigation is ongoing and more arrests could be made. 

Anyone who suspects violations of FWC laws is asked to call the Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) or text Tip@MyFWC.com.

The suspects and their charges are as follows:

Robert Kelly Albritton, 36, of Arcadia

-1 felony count of Racketeering

-1 felony count of Conspiracy to Commit Racketeering.

-1 felony count of Scheme to Defraud

-14 felony counts of Unlawful Possession of Alligator Eggs/Alligators

Robert Thomas Beasley, 38, of Arcadia

-1 felony count of Conspiracy to Commit Racketeering

-6 felony counts of Unlawful Possession of Alligator Eggs/Alligators

David Wentworth Nellis, 73, of Punta Gorda

-1 felony count of Conspiracy to Commit Racketeering

-1 felony count of Uttering a Forged Instrument

-1 felony count of Unlawful Possession of Alligator Eggs

Carl Wayne Pickle Jr., 47 of Arcadia

-1 felony count of Conspiracy to Commit Racketeering

-4 felony counts of Unlawful Possession of Alligator Eggs/Alligators

Wayne Andrew Nichols, 41, of Arcadia

-3 felony counts of Unlawful Possession of Alligators

-1 felony count of Unlawful Killing of White Ibis

-1 first-degree misdemeanor count of Attempting to Take White Ibis

Christopher Lee Briscall, 22, of Fort Denaud

-1 felony count of Unlawful Possession of Alligators

-1 felony count of Conspiracy to Commit Dealing in Stolen Property

Matthew Edward Evors, 22, of Cape Coral

-1 felony count of Unlawful Possession of Alligators

-1 felony count of Conspiracy to Commit Dealing in Stolen Property

Isaiah Joseph Romano, 22, of Fort Denaud

-1 felony count of Unlawful Possession of Alligators

-1 felony count of Conspiracy to Commit Dealing in Stolen Property

Jacob Oliver Bustin-Pitts, 23, of Fort Denaud

-1 felony count of Unlawful Possession of Alligators

-1 felony count of Conspiracy to Commit Dealing in Stolen Property

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