Suspect Nabbed in Alleged License Fraud
A Montrose man faces 21 felony and 26 misdemeanor charges for allegedly falsifying hunting license applications. Robert Matthew Sunn has been charged with intending to defraud the State of Colorado by applying for numerous hunting licenses under false names and using false information.
Sunn, 29, allegedly applied for deer, elk, and antelope hunting licenses using false names in 2003 and 2004. Additionally, he is charged with falsifying dates of birth for his infant sons in order to fraudulently obtain preference points for deer, elk, and antelope between 2001 and 2004. Sunn is also charged with falsely claiming to own property and hunting without a license.
If convicted on all of the charges, Sunn could be sentenced to serve up to 63 years in prison and could be required to pay thousands of dollars in fines. Sunn also faces being permanently banned from hunting in Colorado and 18 other states through the Wildlife Violator Compact. He is scheduled to appear in Montrose County Court at 11 a.m. on Nov. 18.
"It's easily one of the biggest cases of suspected license fraud I've ever heard about," said Montrose Area Wildlife Manager Bill deVergie, who headed up the investigation using a mix of detective work and high-tech computer sleuthing.
An anonymous tip about a single alleged violation led deVergie to dig into Sunn's hunting history. Using the DOW's extensive computer database system, deVergie was able to uncover numerous suspected violations.
"Obviously, help from the public is important in these cases," deVergie said. "That's why Operation Game Thief was set up and why we're so committed to paying rewards for information that helps us catch people trying to cheat the system."
Tipsters can remain anonymous by calling Operation Game Thief (OGT), a DOW program that pays cash rewards to citizens who turn in poachers. OGT is toll free statewide at 1-877-COLO-OGT.
The DOW uses two computer programs to manage information. The Total Licensing System (TLS) and the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Information System (CORIS) help the wildlife agency track millions of sportsmen. The two programs employ cross-references and store hunter information on a database, making it easier for sportsmen to apply for and obtain licenses, but also making it easier for wildlife investigators to track potential criminal activity.
"The TLS computer systems really makes it easier for sportsmen to apply for hunting and fishing licenses without worrying about math errors, poor penmanship, or confusion with regulations," said DOW License Administration Manager Henrietta Turner.
But the same functionality that makes things easier for sportsmen also makes defrauding the system much more difficult.
"We now have the ability to follow trends over time and track possible fraudulent behaviors across the state," said deVergie. "Previously someone might have slipped under the radar by altering an application slightly or hunting in different areas. Now when we flag a file in Fort Collins in 2003, we automatically get that information when we pull up the file in Grand Junction in 2007."
DOW Law Enforcement Chief John Bredehoft said the officers involved in this case did a tremendous job of developing information from a number of sources.
"These types of violations not only cost our state in relation to license fee dollars lost, but also in the high cost of investigating serious fraud crimes, as they can be very time consuming. That ultimately takes away from the funds that would go to protect Colorado's wildlife,” he said.