CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A federal grand jury meeting in Charleston on Wednesday indicted a Jackson County man on two counts of unlawful transport and sale of wildlife for allegedly capturing about 300 wild Eastern box turtles in West Virginia and selling them to out-of-state buyers, including an undercover federal law enforcement officer in Pennsylvania.
Named in the indictment was Thomas Pepin, of Ravenswood, who allegedly used the alias Timmy Stark when trying to sell the turtles over the Internet. According to the indictment, Pepin hunted and captured the turtles from sites near his home between July of 2012 and September 2013 and “sold them to numerous customers outside of West Virginia” knowing that what he was doing was illegal.
In May of 2013, Pepin allegedly sold 12 Eastern box turtles for $18 each to the undercover federal officer, followed one month later by a second sale involving 28 turtles to the same agent for $400.
Pepin allegedly shipped the turtles to Pennsylvania by stuffing them in tube socks to restrict their movement, then placing them in plastic bins with limited air holes which were, in turn, placed in a cardboard box on which no special handling instructions were posted.
During Pepin’s last alleged sale to the undercover officer, half of the 28 turtles shipped were dead when they arrived in Pennsylvania by ground transportation, according to the indictment.
Although Eastern box turtles are not rare in West Virginia — they can be found in every county — they are protected by laws making it illegal for them and other forms of wildlife native to the state to be captured and sold…