Central Florida poaching suspects charged with illegally selling deer, armadillos



CENTRAL FLORIDA, Fla. - State wildlife agents arrested 10 suspected members of a Florida poaching ring who were shipping thousands of pounds of illegal meat around the country.

The 10 arrested were among 21 suspects charged Wednesday with more than 200 criminal violations in Orange, Lake, Osceola, Polk and St. Lucie counties.

The men hunted everything from deer to turkeys and even armadillos.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said the suspects plundered wildlife areas with one goal in mind – profit.

Florida Fish and Wildlife and U.S. Fish and Wildlife officers shot undercover video while pretending to be deer poachers in New York state, but the transactions were real.

The 22-month investigation began with a suspicious traffic stop that lead to 21 targets who investigators said bought fish and wildlife products in Florida to sell out of state.

Capt. Gregg Eason of Florida Fish and Wildlife said anytime someone can make money selling anything, there will be criminal organizations involved.

"In this particular case, we're talking about native fish and wildlife here in Florida," Eason said.

It's a long list of wildlife – deer, wild turkey, migratory ducks and a variety of fresh and saltwater fish. Much of the illegal and unregulated products were headed to markets out of state where officers said the suspects made thousands of dollars per trip.

"They weren't major grocery store chains, I'll leave it at that," said Maj. Curtis Brown of Florida Fish and Wildlife.

Two felony suspects, Rabindra Chandra and Danesh Socklal, are still at large.

Florida Fish and Wildlife said the agency is far from finished with its investigation because there are still unidentified suppliers.

The most serious charges were felony possession of deer and turkey. Those are third-degree felonies, punishable by up to five years in jail and a $5,000 fine.

WFTV is still reviewing documents released by Florida Fish and Wildlife.