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SoCal Couple Pleads Guilty To Poaching Hundreds Of Endangered Sea Turtle Eggs

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Sea Turtles lay their eggs dozens at a time, burying them on beaches where they lay vulnerable. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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Two people, a couple from Hemet, plead guilty on Friday in federal court for smuggling 911 illegally poached sea-turtle eggs from Mexico to the United States.

The eggs were harvested from both the Olive Ridley and Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles, an endangered species protected in both the United States and Mexico under the Endangered Species act, and the convention on International trade in Endangered Species, according to the Los Angeles Times.

After poaching the eggs off a beach in Nayarit, Mexico in 2014, the couple, 52-year-old Olga Jimenez and 64-year-old Jose Jimenez, smuggled the eggs north by bus. The eggs were packaged in coolers, hidden beneath layers of fish, shrimp and ice so as to slip past customs in Tijuana. Jose Jimenez carried the coolers across the borders on foot, before loading them onto a pickup truck.

In court, the couple admitted this was a business they mutually operated, poaching eggs in Mexico, shipping them to the United States, and then eventually reselling them on an international market for $100 to $300 per egg, according to CBS 8, San Diego.

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By pleading guilty to smuggling, unlawful trafficking of wildlife and conspiracy, the couple agrees to surrender the eggs to authorities, as well as pay the Mexican government up to $9,000 for the loss of natural resources.

Sentencing will occur in May, and the couple faces charges that could warrant penalties up to $250,000 in fines, and 20 years in prison.