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Ten defendants sentenced for illegal hunting activities and related offenses

The following news release is furnished by the Department of Justice, United States Attorney Anne M. Tompkins, Western District of North Carolina

The Sentences Are the Result of a Four-Year, Multi-Agency Operation Targeting Illegal Hunting of Wildlife in North Carolina and Georgia

BRYSON CITY, N.C. – Ten defendants were sentenced on Monday, June 10, 2013, in U.S. District Court for illegal hunting activities involving black bears and other wildlife and related offenses, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. The sentences are the result of “Operation Something Bruin,” a multi-agency initiative focused on the illegal poaching of bears and other wildlife in North Carolina and Georgia.

U.S. Attorney Tompkins is joined in making today’s announcement by Steve Ruppert, Special Agent in Charge for the Southern Region of the U.S. Forest Service and Col. Dave Caveny, Chief of the Division of Law Enforcement for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.

In February 2013, state and federal wildlife officials in North Carolina and Georgia announced the results of a four-year undercover investigation focused on illegal activities involving black bears and other wildlife in North Carolina and Georgia. The multi-agency initiative was the largest of its kind in recent years and resulted in more than 80 wildlife violators and over 980 violations. Primary violations documented by Operation Something Bruin stem from illegal bear hunting and poaching in North Carolina and Georgia, but include an array of state and federal wildlife and game law charges. The agencies involved in this investigation include state wildlife agencies, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service.

Officers with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, U.S. Forest Service and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources infiltrated poaching circles to document violations including bear baiting, illegal taking of bears, deer and other wildlife, illegal use of dogs, operation of illegal bear enclosures in North Carolina, and guiding hunts on national forest lands without the required permits. For more information about Operation Something Bruin and its continued success please visit:www.operationsomethingbruin.org.

The following defendants were sentenced on June 10, 2013, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dennis L. Howell:

  • Chad Burchfield, 34, of Robbinsville, N.C., pleaded guilty to one count of hunting feral swine at night. He was sentenced to 30 days in prison. In addition, Judge Howell revoked Burchfield’s right to hunt or fish for a period of two years, and ordered the defendant to pay a $10.00 assessment fee and a $25.00 administrative fee.
  • Patrick Burchfield, 24, of Robbinsville, pleaded guilty to one count of hunting feral swine at night. He was sentenced to 30 days in prison and ordered to pay a $10.00 assessment fee and a $25.00 administrative fee. In addition, the defendant’s right to hunt or fish was revoked for a period of two years.
  • Jessie Jenkins, 23, of Robbinsville, pleaded guilty to hunting feral swine at night. He was sentenced to 30 days in prison, was ordered to pay a $10.00 assessment fee and a $25.00 administrative fee and is prohibited from hunting or fishing for a period of two years.
  • Kenneth Collins,44, of Robbinsville, pleaded guilty to providing a hunting guide service on National Forest land without a permit. Judge Howell sentenced Collins to 30 days in prison. He was also ordered to pay a $10.00 special assessment fee, a $25.00 administrative fee and restitution of $450.00 to the U.S. Forest Service. Collins’ hunting and fishing rights were also revoked for a period of two years.
  • Casey Collins,26 of Robbinsville, pleaded guilty to two counts of providing a hunting guide service on National Forest land without a permit. He was sentenced to 15 days in prison and was ordered to pay a $10.00 special assessment fee and a $25.00 administrative fee. His hunting and fishing rights were revoked for a period of two years.
  • Michael Sellers,20, of Robbinsville, pleaded guilty to one count of proving a hunting service without a permit. He was sentenced to one year of probation and was ordered to surrender his hunting license.
  • Ricky Owens, 48, of Robbinsville, pleaded guilty to one count of failure to obtain a special use permit needed to operate a commercial activity on National Forest land. He was sentenced to 15 days in prison and was ordered to pay a $10.00 special assessment fee and a $25.00 administrative fee.
  • Robert Watson, 46, of Morganton, N.C., pleaded guilty to one count of aid and abet the illegal taking of a black bear. He was sentenced to 30 days in prison and was ordered to pay a $10.00 special assessment fee and a $25.00 administrative fee.
  • Terry Ratliff,55,of Opelica, Alabama, was ordered to pay a collateral of $1,500 for driving on a closed U.S. Forest Service Road.
  • Brian Quacca,41,of Groesbeck, Texas, pleaded guilty to one count of using the National Forest Service for commercial purposes without the required permit. On May 25, 2013, he was ordered to pay a fine in the amount of $1500.00. In addition, he was ordered to pay a $10.00 special assessment fee and a $25.00 administrative fee.

On June 10, 2013, Brent Fox, of Morganton, entered a plea of guilty to one count of illegal taking of a black bear and is awaiting sentencing. The defendants committed the offenses within the Nantahala National Forest with the exception of Robert Watson who committed his offense within Pisgah National Forest.

In making today’s announcement U.S. Attorney Tompkins stated, “We anticipate that the success of Operation Something Bruin will send a strong message to poachers and would-be violators to think twice before they engage in illegal hunting activities. Together with our federal and state law enforcement partners we will combine forces to combat illegal hunting, protect our wildlife and conserve our natural resources. I commend the efforts of all involved in this investigation and I thank our law enforcement partners for their continued dedication to this important mission.”

“The continued success of Operation Something Bruin is a fine example of state and federal agencies coordinating efforts to protect the resources of our national forests,” said Steve Ruppert, Special Agent in Charge for the Southern Region of the U.S. Forest Service. “The Forest Service appreciates the hard work of its law enforcement officers, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in bringing these individuals to justice.”

“These penalties reflect the seriousness of the crimes committed against conservation, our wildlife resources and the hunting heritage,” said Col. Dale Caveny, Chief of the Division of Law Enforcement for the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. “Operation Something Bruin documented hundreds of wildlife violations and the successful conclusion of these federal cases will make would-be violators think twice before breaking the law. Our long-term goal is to deter illegal wildlife activities from taking place in the future and serve notice to everyone that wildlife officers are ever vigilant in the service of conservation and public safety.”

The investigation was conducted by the United States Forest Service, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, theGeorgia Department of Natural Resources and the National Park Service. The prosecution was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Edwards of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville.

           To report illegal hunting activities call the appropriate Law Enforcement contacts: The North Carolina State Wildlife Hotline at 1-800-662-7137, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1-828-258-2084 the National Forests at 1-828-231-0288 or The Great Smoky Mountains National Park at 1-865-436-1230.

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Posted in GA-Fannin County, GA-Gilmer County, GA-Towns County, GA-Union County, NC-Cherokee County, NC-Clay County, NC-Graham County, NC-Macon County, NC-Swain County, Regional News

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