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Illegal Shark Trafficker Convicted

DUTCHESS COUNTY — Attorney General Letitia James and Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the conviction and sentencing of Joshua Seguine, age 38, of the Hamlet of LaGrangeville in Dutchess County for illegally trafficking and selling Sandbar sharks, a protected species.

“Trafficking protected species is unlawful and ultimately harmful to the wildlife,” said Attorney General Letitia James. “My office will continue to partner with DEC and use every tool at our disposal to protect vulnerable species and hold to account those who seek to profit from their suffering.”

“In New York State, it is illegal to take or possess Sandbar sharks, which are a protected species. The defendant in this case amplified his crime by attempting to sell the sharks for personal, financial gain. I commend the work of DEC’s Bureau of Environmental Crimes, Environmental Conservation Police Officers, and Division of Marine Resources staff for investigating this case and the Attorney General’s Office for bringing this individual to justice,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos.

Seguine pleaded guilty in the Town of LaGrange Justice Court with Illegal Commercialization of Fish, Shellfish, Crustaceans, and Wildlife (Environmental Conservation Law ECL 71-0924(2) for the illegal possession with intent to sell seven Sandbar Sharks, a protected species under New York law. Sentencing is scheduled for September 12, 2019.

According to the felony complaint and statements made by the prosecutor at arraignment, Seguine came to the attention of DEC Law Enforcement in July of 2017, after he was found in possession of five undersized sharks in the back of his truck in Georgia. According to authorities, Seguine admitted that he was transporting the sharks to New York State, where he intended to sell them, and that he possessed additional live sharks at his house in New York. After this information was sent to DEC, investigators discovered that Seguine was conducting business under the name Aquatic Apex Life LLC, which had offered sharks for sale as recently as June 29, 2017 on the website MonsterFishKeepers.com.

Using this information, DEC police obtained a warrant to search Seguine’s house in LaGrangeville. DEC officers, accompanied by biologists from the Long Island Aquarium located in Riverhead, New York, and the Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Aquarium located in Coney Island, discovered an above-ground pool at Seguine’s house that contained seven live sharks. The sharks were subsequently identified as Sandbar Sharks (Carcharhinus plumbeus), the possession of which is prohibited by New York law without a special license. The search also uncovered two dead Leopard Sharks, one dead Hammerhead Shark, and the rostrum (snout) of a Smalltooth Sawfish, an endangered species.

Biologists used nets to catch the sharks, took blood samples, measured their lengths, tagged them, and transferred them to the Riverhead facility, using the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation’s box truck, which was specially equipped with tanks, oxygen, and climate control to safely transport the sharks. The sharks were subsequently moved to the New York Aquarium in Coney Island, where they are on display as part of the “Ocean Wonders: Sharks!” exhibit. The cost to legally acquire a Sandbar Shark is approximately $11,500.

The DEC investigation was led by Environmental Crimes Investigator Jeffrey Conway and Environmental Conservation Officer Deo W. Read, under the supervision of Lt. Nick Desotelle, Lt. Mike Buckley, Captain Martin Townley, and Major Scott Florence of the DEC’s Division of Law Enforcement.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Hugh L. McLean of the Attorney General’s Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau’s Environmental Crimes Unit. The Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau is led by Bureau Chief Stephanie Swenton and Deputy Bureau Chief Joseph D’Arrigo. The Division of Criminal Justice is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice José Maldonado.