PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — Florida Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) investigators have charged four individuals with crimes connected to the theft of more than 30,000 oysters from Pensacola Bay Oyster Company. A FWC news release says the suspects were running an illegal oyster operation.
Nicholas Mason, 35, and Douglas Lowery, 30, both of Milton, are charged with grand theft, dealing in stolen property, criminal mischief, and several misdemeanors related to improperly handling oysters and their delivery to oyster houses.
Lesia Mason, 58, of Milton, is charged with grand theft, dealing in stolen property, and several misdemeanor.
Lonny Teston, 46, of Pace was charged with being accessory to dealing in stolen property.
“These violations are serious and posed public safety and economic consequences,” said Major Craig Duval, commander of the FWC’s Northwest Region in the news release. “I am incredibly proud of our law enforcement officers for their work in this investigation and for their dedication to conserving our precious natural resources.”
A search warrant was conducted at the home of one of the suspects, according to the release, and the FWC seized more than 4,000 oysters. Auburn University Shellfish Laboratory researchers analyzed a sample of the seized oysters and determined all sampled oysters were farm raised and not wild caught oysters.
Thomas Derbes, Pensacola Bay Oyster Company farm/seed manager told News 5 he was happy the alleged oyster thieves were caught and praised FWC for their efforts.
Derbes said he has already started regrowing the oysters that were taken from the company.
The alleged thieves stole more than $20,000 worth of oysters from the company, according to Derbes.