Shawn Waters, 36, of Queens, New York, surrendered last month facing grand larceny and other charges for breaking-and-entering and kidnapping Millennium, a 95-pound, 17-year-old rare African tortoise living in Alley Pond Environmental Center in Bayside. He has 36 prior arrests on his rap sheet, but his mom is saying her son is not responsible for this crime.
Millennium had originally been traded for a musk turtle at a Fairfield, Connecticut, train station. The Connecticut man who made the trade immediately notified authorities after seeing the story on the news and realizing the turtle was stolen. Police announced the aging turtle’s return on Twitter, saying “great police work done by 111 precinct detective squad.” Millennium is worth approximately $2,500.
Waters’ mother, Amy, who doesn’t appreciate how her son is being portrayed in the media, is saying that authorities have made a big mistake. Shawn “loves animals” she insisted before his arraignment in Queens Criminal Court. She said he wouldn’t do anything to harm them. “That’s his passion. And now they’re trying to create him like he’s some kind of monster on the news? Like, come on.” Ms. Waters said she shares a two-bedroom apartment with Shawn, who works as a security guard to support his family, including a teenage daughter. They need his income to support the three of them.
Ms. Waters alleged her son was approached on the street by two anonymous men who had come up with a plan to take Millennium from his home in an enclosure at the non-profit educational wildlife center on Northern Blvd. near Cross Island Pkwy, a heist which caused some property damage. In addition to its indoor exhibits, Alley Pond is well known for its nature trails, traverse ponds, salt marshes, forests and meadows where visitors will see birds and small animals. He had been holding onto the tortoise because he doesn’t have a driver’s license or a vehicle to transport him. He wasn’t sure what to do with it.
However, prosecutors simply didn’t buy the protective mother’s story. They have specifically charged Waters with criminal possession of stolen property. He was ordered by the judge to be held on $10,000 bail until his next court date. Investigators discovered Waters actually acted as a middle man, delivering Millenium to the buyer who gave him the musk turtle and $300 cash, a far cry from the what the creature is actually worth.
“They’re trying to blow this thing out of proportion, and I think this is getting really ridiculous now,” said Ms. Waters. “I mean, come on now — let’s stop the circus.” She continued, “A 100-pound turtle…If he took it on the bus or something, wouldn’t somebody notice that?” she asked. “That turtle was huge. So that’s another thing that’s odd, because this is a huge a — turtle from what I saw.”
Shawn is due back in court on Aug. 16. So far, no other suspects were charged in the case. The man who called and reported the tortoise’s theft is off the hook, and the two others are thought by authorities to be fictitious.