Miami-Dade County

South Florida turtle egg thief ordered to stay away from the beach

Two baby loggerhead turtles were found in a nest of 30 hatchlings that had been moved away from brightly lit condos in Broward in 2006.
Two baby loggerhead turtles were found in a nest of 30 hatchlings that had been moved away from brightly lit condos in Broward in 2006. Miami Herald Staff

A turtle egg thief convicted of stealing nearly 300 eggs got an unusual sentence Friday: Stay west of the Intracoastal Waterway.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra sentenced James Odell McGriff, 56, of Riviera Beach, to 14 months in prison, then tacked on the unusual caveat barring him from venturing east of the waterway during three years of probation.

McGriff, a repeat offender, was arrested in August after he was spotted with a backpack on Hutchinson Island, digging up two endangered turtle nests. By the time wildlife officers arrived, McGriff was walking empty-handed to his truck — he told officers he was looking for sandfleas to use as bait. A four-hour search, including two police dogs, eventually resulted in locating the backpack with 299 eggs hidden by a tree. McGriff said he planned to sell the eggs for $20 a dozen.

In 2002, McGriff was sentenced to 43 months in prison after selling eggs to an undercover officer.

Despite protections for turtles, poaching continues to fuel a healthy black market trade for the eggs, thought to be an aphrodisiac in some cultures. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that illegal eggs go for $3 and $5 each, making McGriff’s stash worth nearly $1,500. All but 12 of the eggs were returned to the nest.

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