USA

Seven charged in alleged Florida flying squirrel trafficking ring

Seven people were charged as part of an alleged trafficking ring that sent thousands of flying squirrels from Florida to South Korea, authorities said Monday.

Alleged poachers in central Florida trapped the flying squirrels — a protected wild animal in the state — before selling them to a licensed wildlife dealer who claimed to his buyers they were captive-bred, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The wildlife dealer, from Florida, worked with couriers from Georgia, who drove the flying squirrels north to Chicago, where they were then shipped by an unwitting international wildlife exporter to Asia, authorities said.

In three years, the alleged flying squirrel trafficking ring moved 3,600 of the animals. In the same time, the Florida wildlife dealer illegally netted over $213,000, authorities said.

The investigation into the scheme kicked off after the FWC was tipped off in 2019 to illegal squirrel trapping in Marion County.

Authorities determined the suspected poachers set up to 10,000 traps in the central part of the state.

The seven suspects were hit with a variety of charges, including racketeering, scheme to defraud and dealing in stolen property.

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