Four men charged in Venus flytrap thefts
PENDER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Four men are facing felony charges in Pender County Saturday in connection with a theft of about 900 Venus flytraps.
Wildlife Officers say they arrested Paul Simmons, 49, Paul Simmons Jr., 22, Jimmy Wortham, 23, and Malcolm Massey, 30, and they are being held in Pender County Jail.
NC Wildlife Officer Fred Gorchess received a call from a witness a few months ago who saw a man run across the road on Holly Shelter Game Land with a large sack on his back.
Officer Gorchess said, “Our two options of what we thought — maybe is what it was marijuana or Venus flytraps — so we thought if it was Venus flytraps, it’s a lot of traps.”
Saturday, the officer pulled over a vehicle matching the description of the potential suspects. When questioning the driver, Gorchess said the driver told him he was out taking pictures of birds.
Gorchess says once he saw the plants in the back of one the suspect’s car, he arrested the men.
All four men are charged with felony taking Venus flytraps. Simmons and Wortham received $20,000 secured bonds while Simmons Jr., and Massey received $15,000 secured bonds. If convicted, the suspects could be sentenced to a maximum of 29 months in prison.
As of December 1, 2014, the offense for taking the plant was upgraded to a felony.
This is the first time the new law has been enforced as a felony in North Carolina.
District Attorney Ben David said in a news release, “Venus flytraps are a unique and important part of Southeastern North Carolina’s ecosystem. I am proud that the Fifth District will be the first to prosecute the new felony charge and commend NC Wildlife Resources for their enforcement of the law.”