2018-01-24 / Front Page

Six Months In Tortoise Snatch

By Liz Goff
Even a tortoise deserves justice, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.

A 37-year-old East Elmhurst man will be spending six months in jail for poaching a 17-year-old treasured tortoise named, Millennium from the Alley Pond Environmental Center on July 2016.

Shawn Waters, of 103rd Street, pleaded guilty last month to fifth-degree criminal possession of stolen property before Queens Criminal Court Judge Gia Morris, who sentenced Waters to six months in jail on January 18.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said, according to the charges, that an employee of the Alley Pond Environmental Center (APEC,) realized that Millennium, an African spurred tortoise, was missing at approximately 4 p.m. on July 16, 2017. Employees spotted a hole in a rear fence near the tortoise habitat at the time of Millennium’s disappearance, Brown said. The 95-pound tortoise is estimated to be 17-years-old and is valued at approximately $3,500, Brown said.

According to the charges, a Stamford, Connecticut man posted an item on Craigslist 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, 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, and Millennium was returned to his home.

Brown said the cell phone used by the man who had offered to trade the African spurred tortoise came back to Waters. During a conversation with Reinle, Waters stated that he had spoken to the Connecticut man about exchanging reptiles and met with him to trade the tortoise for the turtle, Brown said.

“Millennium the tortoise’s summer escapade that included crossing state lines has drawn to a close,” Brown said. “The rare reptile is safely ensconced in his habitat and now the defendant, who admitted to possessing the stolen tortoise, will be confined to Riker’s Island for the next six months. This should serve as a warning to everyone that my office will pursue justice for all of those in Queens County – whether they are warm or cold-blooded citizens.”

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