Living in the Sonoran Desert, it seems Saguaro Cacti are everywhere -- that's because, in these parts, they are. But that doesn't mean they're yours for the taking.
The rest of the world isn't as blessed with the prickly foliage, so the federal government -- through the Lacey Act -- does its best to preserve the ones we've got here in Sand Land and surrounding areas where the Saguaro is able to grow.
In other words, if you damage or steal a Saguaro, you could find yourself in a heap of trouble with Uncle Sam, just like an Apache Junction man who federal authorities believe helped himself to six federally protected cacti.
Federal authorities announced today that Clinton Dean Pavelich of Apache Junction has been indicted on two violations of the Lacey Act and two counts of theft of government property.
Authorities say, in early March, on two separate occasions, Pavelich went into the desert and stole a total of six cacti with the intent to sell them.
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If convicted, Pavelich could possibly face some serious prison time.
Each violation of the Lacey Act carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $20,000 fine -- or both. For each count of stealing government property, Pavelich could be looking at up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
"The Saguaro Cactus is the symbol of our Great Sonoran Desert, which Arizonans have worked so hard to preserve and protect," U.S. Attorney Dennis K. Burke says in a statement. "Theft of these protected native plants are thefts from all Arizonans, and this office and our partners in the Department of Interior will work long and hard to bring these thieves to justice."