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Palmetto berry thieves caught with 4,600 pounds of berries in Southwest Florida

20 bags of Palmetto berries
Posted at 3:15 PM, Jul 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-30 15:15:32-04

COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. — Two men from Immokalee are in jail on felony charges after Collier County deputies found more than 4,500 pounds of illegally harvested saw palmetto berries in their vehicles.

Daniel Navarrete, 23, and David Casillas, 19, both of Immokalee, were arrested and charged with fleeing and eluding and grand theft, both felonies; and harvesting berries without a permit, a misdemeanor.

Florida law requires pickers to have a permit from the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and permission from the property owner in order to legally harvest saw palmetto berries on private property.

Neither men had a permit or permission to remove berries from the property owner, according to Collier County Sheriff’s Office arrest reports.

Saw palmetto berry harvesting season typically runs from late July to October. They are typically commercially distilled to create a natural supplement and pharmaceuticals for men’s health issues.

Arrest reports say the men fled from deputies in separate vehicles after a Collier County Sheriff's Office Aviation unit on a routine patrol observed multiple people harvesting palmetto berries on privately owned land in the area around 12:30 a.m. and alerted deputies on the ground.

Collier County Deputies confiscated more than 20 large bags of harvested berries weighing 4,600 pounds valued about $5,400 from inside the vehicles.

Four passengers from Navarette’s vehicle were given notices to appear in court and released.