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Saturday, July 20, 2024 | Back issues
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Accused Turtle Egg Smugglers From Mexico Face 50 Years

SAN DIEGO (CN) - A Southern California couple face up to 50 years in federal prison if convicted on charges of smuggling 911 endangered sea turtle eggs into the United States from Mexico.

Olive ridley and Kemp's ridley sea turtles are both on the U.S. and international endangered species lists. Both can grow up to 100 lbs. and both species have synchronized nesting habits, in which large numbers of turtles gather off regular nesting beaches and come ashore to lay clutches of up to 100 eggs each, and bury them in the sand. The large clutches of eggs laid all at once in predictable places make the eggs vulnerable to poaching. Wildlife groups enlist volunteers to protect the eggs as they await hatching.

But in November last year, federal prosecutors say, 52-year-old Olga Jimenez, of Hemet, took a bus from the state of Nayarit to Tijuana, with a large cooler containing nine plastic bags and 911 turtle eggs.

In Tijuana she was met by Jose Luis Jimenez, 64, who had driven down from Hemet and walked across the border carrying two coolers, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. They hid the eggs under layers of ice, fish and shrimp and gave them to a pickup driver and said they contained only fish and shrimp, prosecutors said.

The Jimenezes re-entered the United States on foot, then called the driver to ask whether the eggs had made it across the border, according to the indictment, which seeks criminal forfeiture of the eggs.

They are charged with conspiracy, two counts of smuggling, and unlawful trafficking in wildlife. Olga Jimenez was ordered to appear in San Diego Federal Court on Dec. 16, Jose on Jan. 14, 2016.

Hemet is in Riverside County, about 90 minutes drive from the border, traffic permitting.

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