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Location: International Falls, Minnesota
Joined: 06/29/2004
Posts: 59
Several Federal & State Game Charges for so called GUIDE

Guide will plead guilty in illegal hunting case

The hunting guide accused of taking out-of-state hunters on illegal deer and turkey hunts will plead guilty to the charges filed against him Wednesday in federal court, his attorney said Thursday.

Adam L. Lawinger, 27, was building a business doing what he loved, but got into trouble by giving the customers what they wanted - big bucks - regardless of hunting regulations, said his attorney, Marcus Berghahn.

"It's what the hunters wanted," Berghahn said. "They wanted the trophy buck. They didn't want rules."

Lawinger, who ran Blue River Outfitters in southern Richland County, was charged with conspiring to sell wildlife that was taken illegally and transported out of state. He is also charged with selling two illegally hunted white-tailed bucks that were transported across state lines. Lawinger will plead guilty to the charges at his first court appearance, which has yet to be scheduled, Berghahn said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim O'Shea, who is prosecuting the case, said he couldn't comment.

Each charge carries a maximum of five years in prison, but Berghahn said it is likely that Lawinger would serve a sentence of less than five years. He said Lawinger is willing to own up to his mistakes and take whatever punishment comes from them.

Three out-of-state hunters were also charged in federal court with transporting illegally taken deer across state lines. Another 42 hunters were charged in Iowa and Richland counties with various hunting-related violations. In all, the hunters came from 11 states, including one from Wisconsin

At a news conference Thursday in Richland Center, state and federal officials displayed a wall of confiscated hunting weapons, mounted turkeys and trophy bucks. Randy Stark, state Department of Natural Resources chief warden, said this was likely the largest case in Wisconsin involving a hunting guide and clients. He called it "a theft of a resource owned by all Wisconsin citizens" and decried the emphasis on "trophy hunting."

"The role of fair chase, not just shooting an animal, is critical to the future of fair hunting," said Stark.

Lawinger ran Blue River Outfitters on property that he was buying on a land contract, Berghahn said. It reverted back to its original owner after state and federal investigators searched it in May. Lawinger now lives with family members in Mineral Point.

After an investigation in which three state and federal officials worked undercover as hunters, game wardens arrived in Blue River early May 2, Berghahn said. Lawinger sat them down, cooked them breakfast, and proceeded to give them a 13-hour statement in which he confessed to everything, Berghahn said.

"He spilled his guts," he said. "He admitted to everything."

That night, Lawinger's home and business were searched. The same day, the home of an unindicted co- conspirator near Spring Green was also searched.

Berghahn said Lawinger grew up in Mineral Point and later attended school in Madison, but his interest was in doing what he loved most - hunting. He and his father found the property in Blue River, and advertised the guide service. Before long, Lawinger was attracting clients looking for big white-tailed bucks.

Much of the hunting took place on land that was owned or leased by the Spring Green man, who also served as a mentor to Lawinger, instructing him on tending his property and feeding deer. The price Lawinger had to pay to take his clients hunting on the man's land increased steadily until it caused tension between the two, Berghahn said.

"He's a good kid who wanted to make a living but got led down the wrong path," Berghahn said. "He's a very honest and straightforward kid."

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Location: International Falls, Minnesota
Joined: 06/29/2004
Posts: 59
Two Flordia officals got caught up in WI game violations

Agents targeted illegal Wisconsin hunts
Wildlife officials documented area leaders' alleged violations at camp

Brett Norman
@PensacolaNewsJournal.com
Posing as trophy game hunters, state and federal wildlife agents documented dozens of alleged violations at a Wisconsin outfitter's camp, where at least 18 Pensacola Bay Area residents were charged with breaking hunting laws, according to three federal affidavits.

The affidavits, filed in the U.S. District Court of Western Wisconsin, provide new details about the two-year investigation that focused largely on Adam Lawinger, 27, a hunting guide at Blue River Outfitters.

Escambia County Sheriff Ron McNesby, County Commissioner Mike Whitehead and several others charged in the investigation have blamed Lawinger for leading them afoul of complicated state hunting laws. Lawinger's attorney has said he plans to plead guilty to federal felony charges.

The affidavits, in support of warrants to search two hunting properties used by Lawinger and one of his e-mail accounts, report multiple instances of unlicensed hunting, baited deer fields and hunting during closed seasons.

Several of those charged locally are named in the statements.

"I had no idea," Whitehead said Wednesday when told he was quoted as talking to Brian Ezman, an undercover warden for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. "I was by myself almost the whole time. I really don't remember talking to anyone in particular."

Jeff Godfrey of Lillian, Ala., and Whitehead were among 11 clients who hunted at the camp in Richland County, Wis., during the week of Nov. 7-13, 2004, when two agents posed as bow hunters seeking trophy deer.

The affidavits reference Whitehead's hunting activities and comments to investigators, including a complaint about 120 acres of hunting property set aside as a deer preserve.

"Whitehead said he thought it was silly," according to an affidavit signed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Special Agent Ed Spoon, who led the investigation.

Whitehead was not charged in the November hunt but faces a charge of hunting over bait at a December hunt -- a charge he denies. He also faces a charge of hunting in February after the season was closed with friend Tony Harding, McNesby and County Administrator George Touart, the only member of that party who has not been charged.

Whitehead, McNesby, Harding and Godfrey are among 46 people who were charged last week in what Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources officials called the largest illegal hunting case in the state's history.

In the affidavits, undercover agents reported that during the November hunt, Godfrey and three other men killed four bucks but had no hunting licenses.

Where Godfrey was hunting, it was required that a "hunter first kill an antlerless deer, before killing an antlered deer. This requirement is referred to as 'earn a buck,' " according to Spoon's statement.

"During the week, the undercover officers observed that none of the 11 clients killed an antlerless deer. If any ... had ... it is very likely they would have mentioned it in conversation when the group was eating dinner, and the officers would have seen the deer when it was brought to the garage at Blue River Outfitters. The four buck(s) ... were all brought to the garage, where all the other hunters could look at them and engage the successful hunters in conversation about their kills."

Godfrey did not return a phone call Wednesday. He is mentioned in affidavits as participating in several hunts, including bear hunts in Canada that also were led by Lawinger.

Whitehead said Lawinger told hunters that he had killed enough does to meet the "earn a buck" requirement and that his clients didn't have to worry about killing them on their own.

Godfrey, 42, and two other men are charged with one felony count of transporting illegally obtained game worth more than $350 across state lines. Forty-two others face state misdemeanors or civil infractions.

Since the charges were filed last week, questions have surfaced about why Touart is the only member of his party who was not charged in the February hunt, even though he was the only one to kill a deer and return it to Pensacola.

His fate remained unknown Wednesday as officials with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Madison, Wis., continued refusing to say whether more charges are pending.

The February hunt is not mentioned in the affidavits, which were filed in late April, before investigators interviewed Touart, McNesby and Whitehead, among others, in the first week of May.

At the request of federal wildlife officials, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission agents retrieved a mounted deer head, deer meat and photographs from Touart earlier this month, said Stan Kirkland, Conservation Commission spokesman.

Touart voluntarily turned over everything requested, Kirkland added.

Touart did not return a call Wednesday.

"I'm sure George is very nervous," Whitehead said of the possibility of federal charges. "I would be."

The timing is awkward for Touart because it comes amid a reminder of a recent ethics controversy in which he was involved.

The Escambia County Commission is expected to vote today on whether to reimburse the $16,115 in legal fees Touart incurred while battling complaints of official misconduct brought by Arety Sievers, owner of a Pensacola topless lounge.

Sievers accused Touart of working with McNesby and others to pressure her to forgive thousands of dollars in credit card charges accrued by the administrator's son at her club during a weekend in 2003. A grand jury cleared Touart of wrongdoing in June 2004, and the Florida Ethics Commission absolved him of any guilt in September.

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Location: International Falls, Minnesota
Joined: 06/29/2004
Posts: 59
Blue River Outfitters

Mr Adam Lawinger booked a hunt for, four hunter's with myself for, a Bear Hunt in Northern, Minnesota in 2001. I had to get the MN game wardens involved as two of the hunters,did not give me there Mn bear tag number, that I;requested from them I ,needed to record on guides report to the MN DNR.
Mr.Thomas Shea of Panama City Beach, Flordia skipped out with out paying for his hunt. I sent letters, phoned him and he never return any thing. So I look at it LIKE WHAT GOES AROUND , COME'S AROUND !!!!
brketo
Mn Guide #559 retired

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