MADISON, WIS. – Scott C. Blader, United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, announced that Markos Diderrich, 28, La Crosse, Wisconsin, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Madison to a felony Lacey Act violation for knowingly transporting illegally taken wildlife across state lines.
At today’s plea hearing, Diderrich admitted he took four Blandings turtles from the Weaver Dunes site in Minnesota on May 29, 2016, and brought them back to his home in La Crosse. Diderrich admitted he traded the four Blandings turtles (which are a threatened species worth $400 to $700 a pair) for four spotted turtles from a commercial reptile dealer located in Tampa, Florida. Diderrich shipped the Blandings turtles, via Federal Express, from La Crosse to Tampa on June 1, 2016. Diderrich also admitted he was trying to obtain two more Blandings turtles from Weaver Dunes on June 5, 2016, when he was caught in the act by a bystander riding a bike, who reported Diderrich to a Minnesota DNR Conservation Officer.
U.S. Attorney Blader noted that Diderrich’s repeated conduct in illegally trafficking in black market reptiles and amphibians justified the felony Lacey Act disposition of the case. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Special Agent in Charge Gregory Jackson added, “We are proud to partner with officers from the Departments of Natural Resources in Minnesota and Wisconsin in this investigative effort. It’s important for the public to recognize that reptiles and amphibians are vital to ecosystems and that a substantial black market exists for this wildlife. This is a case where, due solely to greed, a man was willing to exploit salamanders and rare turtles for his own commercial gain.”
Diderrich’s sentencing is set for September 5, 2018, at 1:00 p.m., before U.S. District Judge William Conley.
The charges against Diderrich were investigated by agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The prosecution of this case is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Daniel J. Graber.