California Wardens Stop Deer Poaching Ring
California game wardens served two search warrants on members of a deer poaching ring early Thursday, resulting in the arrest of three Stockton men. Wardens arrested Thongseuth Khounchanh, 58, Ti Sila, 51, and Bounleuna Sysenglath, 59, as they returned from an all-night poaching trip in El Dorado County. The men were charged with killing deer and selling deer meat for profit.
"It took intensive effort from wardens to stop this poaching operation," said California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Assistant Chief Tony Warrington. "Wardens from all over the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys, including wardens from our Special Operations Unit, the Delta-Bay Enhanced Enforcement Program, the air services unit and our K-9 unit, worked together to make this case."
On May 26, 2011, an anonymous caller to the DFG CalTIP hotline reported suspected deer poaching activity involving Khounchanh, Sila and Sysenglath. Local Wardens Todd Estrada and Raul Lomeli immediately followed up on the tip and realized it led to a much larger case involving the illegal commercialization and selling of poached wildlife for profit. Wardens conducted an extensive investigation that revealed the suspects made multiple illegal poaching trips each week. The deer meat was sold as fast as they could get it.
The three poachers illegally used lights to help identify the deer in the darkness before using a .22 caliber rifle to make the kill. The deer were processed in the field and the meat was transported to the men’s homes in Stockton, where it was then sold to an established network of buyers.
Wardens used all available resources to make observations and collect evidence in this case, including warden K-9s that worked with their handlers to search for deer parts, spent bullet casings and other trace evidence. K-9 teams located parts of several freshly killed deer, including evidence that would likely have been missed otherwise, at multiple locations throughout El Dorado County.
On June 22, with three arrest warrants and two search warrants in hand, wardens waited for the poachers to start home from another all-night poaching trip. All three men were arrested without incident during a vehicle stop. The vehicle and all contents were seized as evidence and will be processed by wardens and the DFG Wildlife Forensics Lab. Wardens also served two search warrants on the subjects’ homes, and conducted more than 20 follow-up interviews with people suspected of purchasing deer meat from the suspects.
Evidence collected at the houses will undergo DNA analysis to find matches with evidence found in El Dorado County.
All three men were booked into El Dorado County Jail on charges of felony conspiracy and commercialization of deer. Khounchanh, a prior felon, will also face further felony charges of illegal firearm possession.
Selling any deer meat in California, whether it was taken legally under a recreational hunting license or killed illegally, is a crime. DFG encourages all Californians to report wildlife crimes to the CalTIP hotline at 1-888-334-2258 (DFG-CALTIP).