Florida man pleads guilty to distributing turtles, impersonating agents

CHARLESTON, S.C.(WCIV) - A Florida man pleaded guilty Thursday to illegally distributingjuvenile turtles and impersonating a federal agent.

According to the U.S. Attorney'sOffice, 42-year-old Steve Maleh, of Plantation, Fla., owned and operated the Island Breeze store on Hilton Head Island and used the store to sell juvenileturtles.

Attorneys said the sale ofjuvenile turtles has been banned since 1975 because of a salmonella threat toanyone who handles them. Maleh has been warned repeatedly that selling thejuvenile turtles was illegal, but he continued to offer them, the attorney'soffice reported.

In 2011 posing as a federalagent, Maleh sent a letter to a competing business warning them of the sameact, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

A district judge accepted Maleh'splea and will hand down a sentence at a later date.

The maximum penalty Maleh facesis a one-year prison sentence or a $1,000 fine or selling the turtles. He facesa three-year prison sentence and/or a $250,000 fine for impersonating a federalofficer.