The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has made multiple arrests in connection with a ring that was illegally selling game meat.
The FWC arrested 21 individuals who bought deer, turkey, alligator and fish meat from unlicensed Florida vendors and shipped them out of state to be sold to the public.
The comprehensive investigation included more than 200 criminal violations in Orange, Lake, Osceola, Polk and St. Lucie counties over a 22-month period. Katie Purcell, community relations coordinator of the commission’s division of law enforcement, said the operation had an extensive network that reached into the states surrounding Florida.
According to an FWC release, some shipments included 2,000 to 3,000 pounds of meat, including restricted species of grouper and snapper. Orders included 900 pounds of poached white-tailed deer and 500 pounds of illegal snook.
Purcell said large-scale illegal operations can hurt legitimate businesses, taking away customers from licensed commercial fishermen and deer farmers who sell their products legally. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is looking into various leads to curtail the illegal sail.
“Shutting it down can boost the economy,” Purcell said
The FWC and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will continue their investigations into poachers and other suppliers of illegal meat.
George Pappas edited this story online.