Poaching Ring Members Sentenced

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Michigan Department of Natural Resources officials today announced the sentencing of the final defendant in a nine-month undercover operation conducted by the DNR Wildlife Resource Protection Unit. The defendant, Tony Lee Linton, of Lachine, Mich., was sentenced to one year in jail with credit for 28 days served, in the 82nd District Court in Harrisville.

Linton originally was charged with killing a sow black bear and her two cubs as they were hibernating in Alpena County in February 2001, then selling the bears in Alcona County. In a plea bargain agreement, the charges in Alpena County were dismissed, and Linton pleaded guilty to conspiracy to sell three black bears, and the sale of three black bears in Alcona County. As part of his jail sentence, Linton will serve 180 days, beginning immediately, with 157 days suspended upon successful completion of a one-year probation. Monetary penalties of $11,330 also were assessed, including $4,500 in liquidated damages. Linton's hunting, fishing and trapping privileges in Michigan were suspended for 12 years.

"The strong sentences in this case, including the lengthy suspension of hunting privileges for two defendants, demonstrate that Michigan courts take very seriously those who engage in the unlawful sale of our wildlife resources," said DNR Law Enforcement Division Chief Richard Asher.

This investigation resulted in the arrest of five Michigan residents on 54 counts of illegally killing and selling protected Michigan wildlife, including bear, bobcat, turkey and a badger. The Michigan Attorney General's Office assisted in the prosecution of these subjects when charges were simultaneously filed last April in District Court in Harrisville, Alpena and Muskegon.

The following subjects previously were sentenced:

* David A. McDonald, of Almont, was sentenced to seven days in jail and fined $3,933. His hunting privileges were suspended in Michigan for three years.

* Kenneth E. Watson, of Westland, was sentenced to seven days in jail and fined $3,708. His hunting privileges were suspended in Michigan for three years.

* Lionel Jefferson, of Muskegon Heights, was sentenced to 200 hours of community service and fined $4,390. His hunting privileges were suspended in Michigan for three years.

* Daniel D. Vance, of Barton City, was sentenced to six months in jail and fined $15,815. His hunting privileges were suspended in Michigan for 10 years.

According to the original tip received by a local conservation officer, Vance and Linton were illegally hunting and killing bobcat, bear and raccoon in Alcona, Alpena and Oscoda counties.

A Wildlife Resource Protection Unit detective then successfully infiltrated the Vance-Linton operation through defendant Jefferson and established a relationship with the two men that would allow the officer to witness numerous illegal hunting trips and sales transactions over the next eight months.

"The dedicated professionals working in our Wildlife Resource Protection Unit have an outstanding track record in apprehending individuals who poach for profit," Asher said. "It often is dangerous work, and I commend these officers for their courageous performance."

Two freezers, two firearms and a four-wheel ORV also were seized and condemned as a result of this investigation. Total monetary penalties amounted to $39,176. Of these penalties, $12,700 was levied as liquidated damages for the illegal killing of four black bears, five bobcats, a turkey and a badger. This money will be directed to the state Fish and Game Protection Fund.

The DNR Law Enforcement Division encourages any person with information involving the illegal commercialization of fish and game to call the toll-free Report All Poaching hotline at 800-292-7800. Click here to find out How to Report a Violation.