BEAUMONT, Texas — Investigators say three men have pleaded guilty in a scheme to sell dozens of rare alligator snapping turtles caught during Texas fishing trips and hauled to Louisiana.

Prosecutors on Tuesday announced Travis Joseph Leger and Rickey Paul Simon, both of Sulphur, Louisiana, and Jason Gene Leckelt of Wilburton, Oklahoma, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to illegally traffic alligator snapping turtles. They face up to five-year federal prison terms during sentencing in Beaumont.

Experts say alligator snapping turtles are the largest freshwater turtles in the world — weighing up to 200 pounds and living as long as a century. They’re protected under Texas and Louisiana wildlife laws.

Federal agents last summer recovered about 30 alligator snapping turtles from ponds in Sulphur. Investigators believe the turtles could have brought up to $1,000 apiece.

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