COLLIER COUNTY, Fla.- Collier County Sheriff's deputies arrested a 42-year-old man accused of stealing 427 pounds of saw palmetto berries on Tuesday morning.
Edius Audate faces grand theft charges, after FWC officers spotted him attempting to haul burlap sacks full of the berries away from private property in the Lely development, according to his arrest report.
FWC had received a call of a suspicious person returning to Wildflower Way several days in a row. They located a Toyota Camry registered to Audate, and contacted the owner of the property it was parked on. The owner advised that Audate did not have permission to be there.
Signs stating "Preserve Area, Do Not Disturb" were posted along the property Audate was allegedly trespassing on.
FWC officers saw Audate walking out of the woods, carrying a burlap sack. He put he sack in his trunk and went back for another bag. He allegedly did this several times, putting a total of four burlap sacks into his trunk.
Officers say Audate was also caught removing saw palmetto berries from Rookery Bay Preserve in 2010. He was issued warnings at that time.
They approached Audate and asked if he had ever been in trouble or warned for picking berries, to which he reportedly said, "No."
The berries were returned to nature after being weighed, and Audate was handed over to the Collier County Sheriff's Office to be taken to the Naples Jail Center.
The berries were worth an estimated $360.