By Gina Martinez
An East Elmhurst man has been arrested and charged with the theft of Alley Pond’s prized tortoise, Millennium, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said Wednesday.
Shawn Waters, 36, was arraigned Wednesday afternoon in Queens Criminal Court on a criminal complaint charging him with fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property, Brown said.
“In the eyes of Millennium the tortoise, the wheels of justice must appear to be turning exceedingly swift,” Brown said. “Abducted from his peaceful Queens habitat and transported across state lines to be traded, the man accused of brokering the deal is now being held accountable for his alleged actions but, more important, Millennium is back home where he belongs, much to the delight of children and other visitors to the environmental center.”
According to the complaint, an Alley Pond Environmental Center employee discovered Millennium, a 17-year-old African Spurred tortoise estimated to be worth $2,500, was missing at 4 p.m. on July 16 and that there was a hole in the rear fence near the tortoise habitat.
Brown said a Stamford, Conn., man had posted an ad on Craigslist that he was selling a musk turtle and a day later he received a cell phone call from a man who said he wanted to trade an African spurred tortoise for the turtle. The DA said that on July 23, the Connecticut man allegedly met with the caller at the Fairfield, Conn., Metro North train station and traded his musk turtle and $300 for an African spurred tortoise.
On July 24 a detective from the NYPD’s 111th Detective Squad recovered the African spurred tortoise from the Connecticut man and the following day an APEC employee identified the recovered tortoise as Millennium, the one that had been stolen from the environmental center.
Based on the complaint, the cell phone used by the man trading the African spurred tortoise was traced back to Waters. In speaking with the NYPD detective, Waters allegedly said that he had spoken to the Connecticut man who had mentioned that he was looking for a tortoise, Brown said.
According to the court papers, after a series of phone calls with different people Waters allegedly spoke with someone and said he was looking for a tortoise. Brown said the next day Waters allegedly received a photograph of a tortoise that the person was willing to give him in exchange for a snapping turtle. Waters is suspected of picking up the tortoise in Bayside and then going up to Connecticut to exchange the tortoise for the turtle, Brown said.
Waters is being held on $10,000 bail and is set to return to court Aug. 16.
If convicted, Waters faces up to four years in prison, the DA said.
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart