New Mexico Woman Gets 9 Years in Illegal Hunting Case

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A former Catron County outfitter was sentenced to serve nine years in jail Wednesday after she pleaded guilty to racketeering and fraud in connection with an illegal hunting operation.

Rita Floyd, 54, pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering, a second-degree felony; one count of fraud over $2,500, a third-degree felony; and two misdemeanor counts of outfitting without a license. She originally was charged with 101 counts, including 60 felonies, for her role in an illegal scheme to sell hunts to out-of-state hunters.

Seventh Judicial District Court Judge Matthew Reynolds sentenced Floyd to 18 years in jail, with 9 suspended, followed by five years probation to be served concurrently with two years of parole. It is believed to be one of the harshest sentences ever handed down in New Mexico for a wildlife-related crime.

The criminal complaint alleged that Floyd, along with her partner, Celeste Core, forged licenses and sold hunts for deer, elk, bear, mountain lions, bobcats and turkeys to numerous out-of-state hunters on eBay, over the telephone and by e-mail. The fraud charges included allegations that after receiving money for the hunts, Floyd and Core did not provide a hunt at all, did not provide the services advertised, or did not provide the type of hunt that was promised.

Floyd and Core, formerly of Pleasanton, N.M., operated Get Gold Adventures and Outfitters. Floyd was arrested in February 2006 in Sonora, Calif., where she was on probation for previous felony convictions, and returned to New Mexico. Core, 55, was arrested in Pleasanton and is scheduled for trial Dec. 4, also in the Seventh Judicial District Court in Reserve. The arrests followed an investigation by the Department of Game and Fish that began in October 2004 when two Minnesota hunters noticed something wrong with their licenses and called a conservation officer.

The Catron County Sheriff's Office, District Attorney's Office, New Mexico State Police, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service assisted the Department of Game and Fish in the case.

The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish encourages citizens to report poaching and other wildlife-related crimes by calling the Department's toll-free Operation Game Thief, (800) 432-4263. Callers can remain anonymous and receive rewards if charges are filed.