Ohio Wildlife Officer Charged With Lacey Act Violations
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) today obtained a four-count indictment from a federal grand jury in Cincinnati charging Allan Wright, a state wildlife officer in southwest Ohio, with trafficking in and making false records for illegally harvested white-tailed deer in violation of federal law.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and its Division of Wildlife willingly cooperated in the investigation, providing documents and other information as it was requested by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the DOJ.
Wright will be placed on immediate unpaid administrative leave and required to return all state property in his possession, according to ODNR.
The Lacey Act makes it a crime for a person to knowingly transport or sell wildlife in interstate commerce when the wildlife was taken or possessed in violation of state law. The Lacey Act also makes it a crime for a person to knowingly make or submit a false record, account or label for wildlife which has been transported in interstate commerce.
The indictment charges that Wright knowingly sold and provided an Ohio resident hunting license to a South Carolina resident during the 2006 white-tailed deer season. According to the indictment, Wright falsely entered an Ohio address for the hunter in order to obtain a resident license. Ohio law makes it a crime to procure a hunting license by fraud, deceit, misrepresentation or any false statement. Ohio law also makes it a crime to hunt without a valid hunting license. The indictment charges that the hunter killed three white-tailed deer using the illegal license. Wright personally "checked in" the three deer, again providing the fraudulent Ohio address. The hunter then transported the deer back to South Carolina.
Additionally, the indictment alleges that Wright, using his authority as a wildlife officer, seized white-tailed deer antlers from a hunter who had killed a deer illegally during the 2009 white-tailed deer season. The indictment alleges that, rather than dispose of the antlers through court proceedings, Wright caused the antlers to be transported to another individual in Michigan. The indictment charges that Wright then filed an official state form which falsely reported that he had personally destroyed the antlers.
Two of the four counts charged in the indictment are felonies punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine per count. The remaining two counts are misdemeanors punishable by up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine per count.
An indictment is merely an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The case is being investigated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney James B. Nelson of the Department of Justice's Environmental Crimes Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division.