Man gets probation in sea turtle deaths

BROWNSVILLE — A man found in possession of Atlantic Green Sea Turtle parts on South Padre Island last summer was sentenced in federal court in Brownsville this week.

Baldemar Veliz was arrested and charged with violating the Endangered Species Act after allegedly admitting to Texas Parks and Wildlife game wardens that he caught, killed, and butchered the sea turtles at the Port Mansfield Jetties on Aug. 17, according to a criminal complaint filed against Veliz in November.

On Thursday, Veliz was scheduled to appear in court for a bench trial. Court records showed that he pleaded guilty to the charge contained in the criminal complaint as part of an oral plea agreement.

The court sentenced Veliz to one year of probation and ordered him to pay a $500 fine.

According to the criminal complaint, game wardens working in collaboration with National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration or NOAA responded to a complaint of subjects capturing and killing sea turtles at the Port Mansfield Jetties in August and later located Veliz in possession of turtle shells.

State authorities said that they found the individuals in possession of sea turtle shells. “Trying to conceal the meat, the individuals put it in a plastic bag in the sand dunes,” they stated.

“The contents of the bag appeared to be meat from two sea turtles, which included two sets of turtle hind and fore flippers.”