Guilty plea entered in MN/MT poaching case

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Froid man pleads guilty to poaching

CLAIR JOHNSON Of The Billings Gazette Staff

4/25/02

A Froid man pleaded guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Billings to one misdemeanor count of violating federal game laws by aiding and abetting in the illegal taking and transportation of 20 deer from Montana to Minnesota.

Jan Douglas Peters, 56, had been indicted on seven counts including two felonies. A plea agreement calls for the government to recommend a sentence of three years of probation. The maximum sentence for the misdemeanor is one year in prison.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kris McLean said that had the case gone to trial, evidence would show that in October of 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999 Peters supplied Montana resident deer hunting tags to co-defendants Charles Michael Campbell and Daniel Allen Tonga, both of Federal Dam, Minn. Campbell and Tonga then would shoot deer and take them back to Minnesota.

In an undercover investigation in October 1999, Montana game wardens posed as hunters and watched as Peters handed tags to Campbell and Tonga, McLean said. Peters was not involved in the hunting, but the co-defendants shot about every deer they saw, taking eight deer in 1999, he said.

Investigators expected the two Minnesotans to show up again in 2000 but they didn't. McLean said investigators got a search warrant and found some of the Montana resident tags, deer meat and heads at Campbell's and Tonga's homes.

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

There was no mention of walleyes on Wednesday.

Peters agreed with McLean's account but seemed surprised at the 20 deer. "I had no idea there were going to be 20 deer killed," he said.

Peters said he bought two tags annually for four years. "I bought them at the hardware store in my name," he said. Peters also said he was under the impression that Campbell and Tonga needed the meat to feed their families.

Cebull set sentencing for July 30 and released Peters without bond.
 


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