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Tuesday, Jun 19, 2018
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Polk men accused of poaching freshwater turtles

State wildlife officials have accused three Polk County men and an Okeechobee turtle farmer of illegally harvesting, selling and buying 2,100 pounds of freshwater turtles.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission banned the commercial harvest of all native wild turtles in 2009, citing the overharvesting of turtles as food elsewhere in the world.

Lt. George Wilson says investigators in Polk and Seminole counties caught the men poaching turtles on lakes and the St. Johns River. The turtles were transported and sold illegally to the turtle farm.

My Van Vo, 31, of Lakeland; Canh Van Nguyen, 48, of Lakeland; and Lieng Su Pham, 69, of Winter Haven; were arrested.

An FWC spokesman said Vo was caught on Lake Apopka in possession of 87 live softshell turtles weighing in excess of 500 pounds. Officials said Nguyen and Pham were transporting and selling turtles illegally to Harden and Son’s Turtle Farm.

The owner of the farm, Franklin Gene Harden, 55, of Okeechobee, was also arrested.

The men were charged with multiple felonies and misdemeanors.

Wilson said he hopes the arrests help “ensure everyone has the opportunity to see freshwater turtles in the wild and harvest them recreationally.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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