Fish for deer trade leads to federal charges


Mar 11, 2001
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Fish-for-deer trade leads to federal charges.

By GREG TUTTLE Of The Billings Gazette Staff


A Montana man traded his resident deer licenses for hundreds of pounds of walleye from two Minnesota men, who then killed 20 deer over four years, federal prosecutors said.

Jan Douglas Peters, of Froid, and Charles Michael Campbell and Daniel Allen Tonga, both of Minnesota, appeared Thursday in U.S. District Court in Billings where they pleaded innocent to seven charges each of violating federal game laws in the Lacey Act.

The men were released without bond until trial. If convicted on all charges, they could receive a maximum sentence of 12 years in prison and $1.2 million fine. A trial date has not been set.

According to the indictment, the men traded the fish for deer licenses between 1995 and 1999. During that period, Peters accepted at least 270 pounds of walleye fillets from Campbell and Tonga, who shot 20 deer, including a five-point whitetail buck.

In 1997, Peters also gave Tonga and Campbell his wife's resident deer tag, but she has not been charged.

Tonga and Campbell took all but four of the deer they killed back to Minnesota.

According to the indictment, the illegal trading began in October 1995 when Peters told Campbell, "You bring the fish, and I'll get the tags."

The next year, Campbell and Tonga brought 50 to 60 pounds of walleye fillets from Minnesota to Montana, which they traded for Peters' resident deer tag. Campbell killed four whitetail deer, which is over the legal limit. Tonga killed a buck whitetail without a license, prosecutors say.

In 1997, Campbell and Tonga gave Peters 45 to 100 pounds of walleye fillets. Campbell killed three deer and Tonga killed two deer.

The trading continued in 1998 and 1999, when about 200 pounds of walleye were given to Peters. Campbell and Tonga killed 10 deer during those two years, including the large buck killed in 1999.

The charges against the three men include one count of conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

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