2017-08-09 / Front Page

Tortoise Thief Faces 10-Years In Prison

By Liz Goff
A 36-year-old East Elmhurst man has been charged with snatching treasured tortoise, Millennium, from his habitat at the Alley Pond Environmental Center on July 17.

Shawn Waters, of 103rd Street, was arraigned in Queens Criminal Court on a criminal complaint charging him with grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property – a Class E felony punishable by up to four years in prison.
According to the charges, a Stamford, Connecticut man posted an item saying that he was selling a musk turtle and that, a day later, he received a cell phone call from a man who stated that he wanted to trade an African spurred tortoise for the turtle, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.
The Connecticut man allegedly met with the caller at the Metro North train station in Fairfield, Connecticut on July 23, where he handed the caller his musk turtle and $300 cash for the African spurred tortoise, Brown said.
Detective John Reinle, of the 111th Precinct Detective Squad, recovered the 95-pound African spurred tortoise from the Connecticut man on July 24, Brown said. An APEC employee identified the tortoise as Millennium on July 25, saying the recovered tortoise was the one stolen from the Douglaston, Queens environmental center.
Detectives were then able to trace the cell phone used to trade Millennium to Waters, Brown said. In a subsequent conversation with Reinle, Waters allegedly admitted that he had spoken with the Connecticut man who mentioned that he was looking for a tortoise, Brown said.
Waters alleged that after a series of phone calls with different people, he spoke with someone to whom he stated that he was looking for a tortoise. It is alleged that on the next day, Waters received a photo of a tortoise that the person was willing to trade for a snapping turtle. Waters allegedly picked up the tortoise in Bayside, and then headed to Connecticut to complete the trade.
Police are still investigating to determine if Waters, who has a history of 26 prior arrests, is the person that actually stole Millennium
“In the eyes of Millennium the tortoise, the wheels of justice must appear to be turning exceedingly swift,” Brown said. “Abducted from his peaceful Queens habitat and transported across state lines to be traded. The man accused of brokering the deal s now being held accountable for his alleged actions but, more important, Millennium is back home where he belongs, much to the delight of children and other visitors to the environmental center.”
Millennium went missing at about 4 p.m. on July 16, police said. Investigators found a hole in a rear fence near the tortoise habitat at APEC shortly after employees discovered Millennium was missing. The 17-year-old tortoise is estimated to be valued at approximately $2,500, an APEC spokesperson said. But to children and the community, Millennium is priceless, the spokesperson said.
Waters was ordered at his arraignment to shell-out $10,000 bail. He is due back in court on August 16.
It is unclear if Millennium will have to appear in court to identify his abductor, a law enforcement source said.


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