Deer-for-walleye scheme earns jail for Minnesotans

spectr17

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July 30, 2002

Deer-for-walleye scheme earns jail for Minnesotans

By CLAIR JOHNSON Of The Blillings Gazette Staff

A poaching scheme in which an Eastern Montana man traded his deer tags for walleye fillets from Minnesota has sent two men to federal prison and landed a third on probation.

U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull on Tuesday sentenced Jan Douglas Peters, 56, of Froid, to three years of probation but he ordered his co-defendants to do time.

He sentenced Charles Michael Campbell, 44, of Federal Dam, Minn., to a year and a day in prison, and Daniel Allen Tonga, 42, also of Federal Dam, Minn., to six months in prison.

"This was nothing but a shooting spree by Mr. Tonga and Mr. Campbell," Cebull said. They were the epitome of bad hunters, he said.

The judge noted "grotesque descriptions" in the pre-sentence report of deer's legs being shot off and animals left wounded.

"This is not hunting. It's just random killing of wildlife. It makes no sense to me. And I'm a hunter. And it makes double no sense to me," Cebull said.

According to the indictment, the illegal trading ran for about four years, from 1996 to 1999. Peters had told Campbell, "You bring the fish, and I'll get the tags."

In all, approximately 20 whitetail and mule deer were poached in exchange for 343 pounds of walleye fillets.

Campbell and Tonga each pleaded guilty earlier to a felony count of conspiracy to violate federal fish and wildlife laws in the Lacey Act by acquiring and transporting illegally taken wildlife. Six other counts in the indictment were dismissed at sentencing.

Cebull said Campbell took a leadership role by instructing others, including undercover operatives, to tag deer, adding that he "appears to be the most trigger happy."

Campbell's attorney, Richard Swanson, of Chaska, Minn., sought a sentence at the low end of the guideline range, which was 12 months to 18 months.

Campbell said he was sorry but denied ever shooting a mule deer. "I really apologize for taking advantage of the animals and hunting," he said. "I love to hunt."

In addition to prison time, Cebull ordered Campbell to spend three years on supervised release and not to hunt or trap or accompany anyone hunting or trapping anywhere in the world.

The judge further ordered Campbell to pay restitution of $3,500 to be given to the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks and restitution of $3,426 to be given to the Leech Lake Band of Chippewa in Minnesota.

Cebull also was unmoved by Tonga's explanation that he was poor and was trying to feed his wife and four children. Tonga said he started coming to Montana because there were no deer in Minnesota.

"Maybe folks like you poached them," Cebull replied.

Cebull gave Tonga the maximum six months in prison under his guideline range, which could have included probation, and three years of supervised release. He also ordered Tonga to pay restitution of $1,900 to be given to Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Cebull ordered him not to hunt or trap or to accompany anyone doing so anywhere in the world but did not take away Tonga's fishing privileges.

Swanson, who also represented Tonga, said being a fishing guide was Tonga's livelihood. "I don't know what else he would do," he said.

Peters, the Montana defendant, pleaded guilty earlier to an information charging him with a misdemeanor for aiding an abetting the illegal taking and transportation of wildlife. Cebull on Tuesday dismissed the indictment against Peters.

Peters told the judge he accepted full responsibility for providing the hunting tags. "And I'm sorry that I did," he said. "And for whatever my guarantee's worth, it will never happen again."

Cebull found Peters to be the least culpable. In addition to probation, the judge ordered Peters to perform 80 hours of community service and to pay restitution of $2,600 to be given to Fish, Wildlife and Parks. He also ordered him not to hunt, trap or fish or to accompany anyone doing so anywhere in the world.
 

Mrfishy34

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wow... how could some one be so stupid.  now they cant hunt or fish stupid people.. them are the hunters/fishers that ruin it for all hunters and fishers.  only one hunter/fisher gives all hunters/fishers a bad rap...
 

treestandman2

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THEY AREN'T HUNTERS OR FISHERMAN, THEY ARE CRIMINALS AND MORE NEED TO BE CAUGHT!!!
 

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