Police make arrest in theft of rare Queens tortoise

Millennium, the tortoise that went missing from Alley Pond Environmental Center in Queens. (NYPD 111th Precinct Twitter)

DOUGLASTON, Queens — A Queens man has been charged with criminal possession of a rare tortoise that was stolen from an environmental center last month, the Queens District Attorney’s office said.

Shawn Waters, 36, of East Elmhurst, was arraigned on Monday for possessing stolen property — Millennium, a 17-year-old African spurred tortoise that was taken from the Alley Pond Environmental Center.

An employee noticed that the tortoise was missing around 4 p.m. on July 17 and that there was a hole in the rear fence near the tortoise habitat, the District Attorney’s office said.

Five days later, a man from Stamford, Conn. allegedly traded a musk turtle and $300 for an African spurred tortoise at the Fairfield, Conn. Metro-North station. He realized the tortoise was the stolen reptile from Queens and called police.

Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said that the cell phone used by the man trading the African spurred tortoise was traced back to Waters.

An NYPD detective recovered the tortoise from the Connecticut man on July 24, and the environmental center confirmed the tortoise was the same animal that was stolen.

“Abducted from his peaceful Queens habitat and transported across state lines to be traded, the man accused of brokering the deal is now being held accountable for his alleged actions, but, more important, Millenium is back home where he belongs, much to the delight of children and other visitors to the environmental center,” District Attorney Brown said in a statement.

The tortoise is estimated to be worth around $2,500, according to the District Attorney’s office.

Waters faces up to four years in prison. He is expected to return to court on Aug. 16.