ARCADIA, Fla. – Nine Florida residents have been arrested on suspicion of illegally harvesting alligators and their eggs.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Office of Statewide Prosecution announced the arrests Wednesday.
"This massive criminal operation dealing in American alligators and their eggs undermines legitimate farmers operating legally," Attorney General Pam Bondi said in a statement. "I want to thank the FWC for their superb investigative work and look forward to my Office of Statewide Prosecution prosecuting those involved in this reckless illegal operation."
The arrests are a result of an undercover operation by the FWC that began in 2015.
Authorities said FWC officers established an alligator farming business, Sunshine Alligator Farm, in Arcadia to gain information and evidence about poachers.
Investigators documented more than 10,000 illegally harvested eggs during the course of the undercover operation.
Authorities said some of the suspects took undercover officers on alligator hunts, illegally catching and selling the reptiles.
The suspects were identified as Robert Albritton, 36, of Arcadia, Robert Beasley, 38, of Arcadia, Christopher Briscall, 22, of Fort Denaud, Jacob Bustin-Pitts, 23, of Fort Denaud, Matthew Evors, 24, of Fort Denaud, David Nellis, 73, of Punta Gorda, Wayne Nichols, 42, of Arcadia, Carl Pickle Jr., 47, of Arcadia, and Isaiah Romano, 22, of Fort Denaud.
They face multiple charges, including racketeering, conspiracy to deal in stolen property and the intentional killing or wounding of any species of special concern.