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DEP Officers Bust Orchid Thief

Orchids only indigenous to Florida state parks discovered for sale online

May 3, 2005

Tallahassee Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) law enforcement officers recently arrested Gary L. Bienemann for allegedly selling hundreds of orchids and flowers stolen from two state parks through a St. Petersburg-based nursery and through the online auction website, eBay.

Bienemann, 47, of Clearwater, was arrested for unlawful harvesting, possession and sale of endangered, protected and threatened species of orchids. eBay assisted state officers in the investigation and removed the illegal items upon notification.

Mr. Bienemannís illegal actions show a blatant disregard for the law and Floridaís endangered wildlife, said DEP Division of Law Enforcement Director Thomas S. Tramel, III. Because of the keen work of a dedicated citizen, DEP law enforcement officers were able to quickly and efficiently stop this environmental crime.

Following a citizen tip, the suspect was found to illegally possess with the intent to distribute 56 butterfly orchids, 26 green-fly orchids, six dancing-lady orchids, four leafless orchids and one pale-flower polystachya. The nursery had seven additional species of endangered plants advertised for sale on eBay, including the ribbon orchid. The dancing-lady orchid is found only in Southeast Floridaís Jonathan Dickinson State Park while the ribbon orchid is located only within Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park.

DEPís Division of Law Enforcement is responsible for statewide environmental resource law enforcement, providing law enforcement services to Floridaís state parks and greenways and trails. Agents investigate environmental resource crimes and illegal dredge and fill activities and respond to natural disasters, civil unrest, hazardous material incidents and oil spills that can threaten the environment.

From 1999-2003, DEPís Division of Law Enforcement investigated 3,365 criminal environmental cases -- an increase of nearly 414 percent over the previous five years. In 2000, DEP launched the Environmental Crimes Strike Force to combat major crimes against the environment and public health. Its first operation, Operation Green Lightning, resulted in 156 arrests the largest environmental law enforcement sweep in U.S. history.

To report environmental crime, Cingular wireless customers can dial *DEP. Callers without wireless access can report environmental crimes to the State Warning Point by calling (800) 320-0519. General environmental inquiries should be directed to DEP district offices during business hours.

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