Man guilty of selling sponges without inspections in Tarpon Springs

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TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — A Florida man faces up to a year in federal prison for selling sponges without the proper inspections.

Court records say 58-year-old Nicholas Skaroulis pleaded guilty to this week in Tampa federal court to violating the Endangered Species Act. A sentencing date hasn’t been set.

A plea agreement says Skaroulis owned and operated Sponges Direct Inc. in Tarpon Springs, where sponge diving goes back more than a century. The company, which sold non-living natural sponges, exported sponges to customers outside of the U.S. from 2014 to 2018.

Officials say the company failed to disclose the shipments on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Declaration Forms, evading inspection and user fees.

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