Two men had some eggs in the morning. That’s why they’ll do federal prison time.

A sea turtle making a nest on a beach.
A sea turtle making a nest on a beach.

Even with extensive criminal lives featuring grand theft and cocaine, Riviera Beach’s Carl Cobb and Raymond Saunders managed to avoid federal prison. Then they got busted for raiding loggerhead sea turtle nests.

Cobb and Saunders each received seven-month sentences with $227 restitution Monday after pleading guilty to transporting sea turtle eggs for the purpose of selling them. Though their sentences are identical, Cobb pleaded guilty to two counts.

The pair got busted on May 24 by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers in Cobb’s Mazda truck with 450 sea turtle eggs in the back. At $3 to $5 per egg in South Florida, that’s up to $2,250 worth of eggs.

“The Northwest Atlantic Ocean’s loggerhead nesting aggregation is considered to be the largest in the world,” the FWC website says. “Florida hosts approximately 90 percent of the nests associated with this aggregation. The majority of this nesting takes place in five counties on the east coast of Florida (Brevard, Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin and Palm Beach counties).”

According to court documents, on the morning of May 5 two people saw Cobb poking a sea turtle egg nest with a stick on St. Lucie County’s Hutchinson Island beach. One of them got in Cobb’s face about it. He stepped off to the dunes with a bag that wasn’t empty, then disappeared when one of the people said the cops had been called. But they’d seen Cobb’s red Mazda truck and one of them took a picture of the confrontation with Cobb.

An Inwater Research Group biologist reported somebody messed with two nests on the beach. Instead of around 100 eggs, a normal sized nest, one nest had no intact eggs, and another nest had two. Broken shells and fresh yolks desecrated the scene.

On May 24, FWC Lt. Mike Ornold saw Cobb’s Mazda truck going north on State Road A1A in Martin County. He followed it to St. Lucie County around 8:30 a.m. Surveillance cameras watched Cobb and Saunders go to the beach. Ornold watched Cobb and Saunders hunt turtle nests and pick up eggs for 40 minutes.

When they left, FWC cops stopped them.

David J. Neal: 305-376-3559, @DavidJNeal