Florida man sentenced for selling juvenile turtles in Hilton Head

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - A Florida man who pleaded guilty in October to illegally distributing juvenile turtles and impersonating a federal agent was sentenced in federal court Thursday.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, 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 juvenile turtles.

Maleh was sentenced to three years probation.

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

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

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

The maximum penalty Maleh faces is a one-year prison sentence or a $1,000 fine or selling the turtles. He faces a three-year prison sentence and/or a $250,000 fine for impersonating a federal officer.