Two Maine men pleaded guilty this week to illegal dealing in elvers, juvenile eels that can bring in high prices when sold in Asian markets.

The two, William Sheldon, 71, of Woolwich and Timothy Lewis, 46, of Phippsburg, were charged by federal authorities in March with violating the Lacey Act, which prohibits trafficking in illegal wildlife.

Elver harvesting is allowed only in Maine and South Carolina and the harvests are strictly regulated in both states.

Sheldon and Lewis both changed their pleas to guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court in Portland.

Sheldon, prosecutors alleged, traveled between Maine and South Carolina dealing in elvers, even though he knew that the elvers he was buying had been caught in states where harvesting the young eels is illegal, including Virginia. On one occasion, he even pointed out to an undercover agent that his purchase of elvers from the man was a violation of the Lacey Act and the penalty could be severe, the prosecutors’ version of events filed with the court says.

Lewis, according to prosecutors, caught and bought elvers that had been harvested illegally in Massachusetts. From 2012 to 2014, the market value of illegally caught elvers he dealt with was more than $413,000, prosecutors said.


In the plea agreements, the terms that prosecutors will seek for the men isn’t spelled out, but both Sheldon and Lewis agreed to waive their right to appeal any sentence that calls for less than 30 months in prison.

Sheldon also agreed to forfeit a pickup truck that he modified to use for transporting elvers. The truck was sold, according to court documents, so he will forfeit $33,000 instead.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465

[email protected]

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