DeSoto County man convicted after investigation into illegal alligator egg laundering in Florida

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A state appeals court Friday upheld a man’s conviction on a charge of conspiracy to commit racketeering after an undercover investigation into the illegal laundering of alligator eggs.

A three-judge panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected an appeal by Robert Thomas Beasley, who was convicted in DeSoto County.

An undercover officer from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission set up an alligator-egg processing facility as part of a probe into whether alligator eggs were being laundered through alligator farms, according to Friday’s ruling.

Beasley was hired by Robert Albritton, who had a license to collect alligator eggs and had reached an agreement to provide 10,000 alligator hatchlings to a Louisiana farm in 2016, according to the ruling. The Louisiana farm provides alligator hides for manufacturing luxury goods in Europe.

Friday’s ruling said the state presented evidence that Albritton, Beasley and two other people “illegally harvested alligator eggs by violating Florida permitting and licensing requirements and worked to launder illegally collected eggs through the Seminole Tribe of Florida.” In addition to the conspiracy charge, Beasley was convicted on two counts of intentionally possessing or capturing alligators or alligator eggs.

In upholding the conviction, the appeals court pointed, in part, to Beasley being aware of forged documents.

“The scheme involved increasing egg collection numbers by laundering eggs that had been illegally poached from various properties and by falsifying documents which represented that the eggs came from Seminole tribal lands,” said the 23-page ruling, written by Judge Morris Silberman and joined by Judges Susan Rothstein-Youakim and Andrea Teves Smith.

“The scheme also included increasing egg collections by collecting eggs and hatchlings in excess of permits or without permits, falsely reporting or not reporting details of egg collections to the FWC (Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission), and transporting eggs without documentation or with fraudulent documentation.”

Beasley was sentenced to nearly a year in jail and 10 years of probation. The state sought a longer sentence, but the appeals court agreed with a circuit judge who said Beasley was a “relatively minor participant” in the scheme. Albritton entered a plea agreement and was sentenced to three years in prison, according to Friday’s ruling.

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