Shawn Waters, 37, of 103rd Street pleaded guilty in December to fifth-degree criminal possession of stolen property, according to Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown. Waters has been sentenced to six months of incarceration at Rikers Island.
According to court records, an employee at the Alley Pond Environmental Center realized that “Millenium,” (sic) a 17-year-old African spurred tortoise, had disappeared from his habitat on July 16. Staffers then discovered a hole in the rear fence near the animal’s enclosure.
In a reptile trade that spanned the tri-state area, a Connecticut man posted an ad on Craigslist stating he was selling a musk turtle. A day later, he received a call from a cell phone later traced by police to Waters. The Queens man offered to trade an African spurred tortoise for the musk turtle.
On July 23, the Connecticut man met with Waters at the Fairfield Metro North train station and traded his turtle and an additional $300 for the African spurred tortoise. The following day, police recovered the tortoise from the Connecticut man after he read news reports about the missing animal.
After the 111th Precinct Detective Squad was able to pinpoint Millenium in Connecticut, they returned him in good condition to the Douglaston environmental center. Staff were able to identify the tortoise as the missing animal.
Waters later told NYPD detectives that he made the phone call and met with the Connecticut man to make the trade.
The 95-pound reptile is estimated to be worth roughly $2,500.
“This should serve as a warning to everyone that my office will pursue justice for all those in Queens County — whether they are warm or cold-blooded citizens,” Brown said.