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'Lizard King' accused of trafficking Florida turtles

Michael Van Nostrand is accused of falsely labeling three-stripe mud turtles as having been bred in captivity.
Credit: Liz - stock.adobe.com

MIAMI — Federal prosecutors have brought another case against the so-called “Lizard King" of Florida, Michael Van Nostrand.

He's accused of scheming to export illegally harvested turtles to China and Japan. 

Prosecutors say Van Nostrand and his company, Strictly Reptiles, established a network of “collectors” who searched the Florida wilds for fresh-water specimens including the three-stripe mud turtle. 

Van Nostrand, 54, is accused of falsely labeling these turtles as having been bred in captivity.

He made his first appearance in federal magistrate court on Tuesday in Miami as part of the turtle-smuggling case that is being investigated by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), according to the Associated Press.

Van Nostrand is reportedly charged with conspiring with others to illegally traffic wildlife and faces up to five years in prison and a fine of at least $250,000 if convicted.

His company will also have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines if he's convicted.

Van Nostrand gained his infamy through his best-selling book "The Lizard King" about his quest for rare snakes and other reptiles that could sell for price tags in the tens of thousands of dollars, the Sun Sentinel reports.

This is not his first time running into problems with the law. He was sentenced to eight months in prison in 1998 for buying smuggled snakes and lizards, and required to pay $250,000 to the World Wildlife Fund, AP reports.