Two men are in jail on felony charges after deputies found more than 4,500 pounds of illegally harvested saw palmetto berries in their vehicles Thursday.
Arrest reports say Daniel Navarrete, 23, and David Casillas, 19, both of Immokalee, fled from deputies in separate vehicles after a Collier County Sheriff’s office aviation unit on patrol noticed multiple people harvesting palmetto berries on privately owned land in the area of 28th Avenue Southeast and Everglades Boulevard South around 12:30 a.m. Deputies on the ground caught up with them and confiscated more than 20 large bags of harvested berries weighing 4,600 pounds from inside the vehicles. The berries had a value of $5,400, arrest reports said.
Florida law requires pickers to have a permit from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and permission from the property owner in order to legally harvest saw palmetto berries on private property. Neither Navarrete nor Casillas had a permit or permission to remove berries from the property owner, according to CCSO.
Both men were arrested and face charges of fleeing and eluding and grand theft, both felonies; and harvesting berries without a permit, a misdemeanor. Four passengers from Navarrete’s vehicle were given notices to appear in court and released.
Saw palmetto berry harvesting season typically runs from late July to October. They are often commercially distilled to create a natural supplement and pharmaceuticals for men’s health issues.