Largest wildlife undercover operation in state


Mar 11, 2001
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May 23, 2003

Wildlife probe snares 94

Game, fish sales cited in charges

By Bobby Cleveland, Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, MS),

Conservation Officer Sammy Fisher arrests Yazoo County resident Paul Furr, who was accused of iIlegal wildlife sales. The arrest was part of a multistate undercover investigation into illegal game harvests and sales and interstate transportation violations. Greg Jenson / The Clarion-Ledger

GRENADA — For two years, undercover wildlife agents in Mississippi and Arkansas have been investigating the illegal sale of game animals and fish.

For 12 hours, beginning at dawn Thursday, conservation officers began making the arrests that would conclude the largest wildlife undercover investigation in state history.

Operation Delta, a covert operation in Arkansas and Mississippi, resulted in more than 300 state and federal wildlife charges filed against 94 people.

By 6 p.m., 17 of 18 Mississippians sought had been arrested, charged with various offenses and processed. Many had bonded out. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission reported 24 arrests in that state.

Fifty arrest warrants were issued and 44 more are pending.

In Mississippi, Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks special operation officers documented 197 violations involving 54 people.

More arrests are expected.

Charges ranged from illegal harvesting and marketing of game and fish to fraud and the sale of marijuana and unbonded bourbon.

Cases on another 87 suspects couldn't be made, agents said, because they couldn't deliver the game and fish. For instance, many who promised agents illegal bass and crappie couldn't catch them because of poor fishing conditions.

Bob Oliveri of Brandon, the resident agent for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana, was pleased with Operation Delta.

"Its success proves again just how important these special operations units are for state wildlife enforcement agencies," Oliveri said. "These officers can make arrests in areas where uniformed county officers, who are known to the suspected violators, can't."

Because of the operation, Master Sgt. Sammy Fisher, the conservation officer for Yazoo County, was able to make two arrests he's been wanting to make for a while.

A team led by Fisher took brothers Paul and Mitchell Furr of Eden into custody and charged each with two counts of selling deer to the undercover agents. They were booked into the Yazoo County jail.

"We've been after these two guys for years and haven't been able to catch them," Fisher said. "We knew what they were doing, and we've been close, but we couldn't catch them.

"I'm glad the special ops guys were able to get them."

Johnny Collins, project coordinator for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, expects all charges to be prosecuted successfully.

"Our covert officers have a 100- percent conviction rate," Collins said. "Our men are well-trained and carry out their operations with great detail, and in most cases each buy or sale is recorded on videotape. You can't beat video in court.

"It is essential that we continue the covert work by these special ops officers. They target the violators who are using the wildlife and fisheries resources for profit. This is a very effective way to get at those guys."

Officers were able to buy turtles, frogs, turkey, rabbits, ducks, squirrel, illegally harvested raccoons, beaver, bass, crappie, bream and paddlefish roe.

Since it is also illegal to purchase game animals or fish, officers often recycled what they had bought by selling it to unsuspecting buyers.

The going rate per deer was $35-$60, while crappie went for up to $5 a fish.

In some cases, arrests were based on barter. One agent traded shotgun shells for ducks.

"They also bought untaxed Jack Daniels whiskey and marijuana," Collins said. "I think they gave $5 per bottle of Jack Daniels and $1,200 for a pound of pot."

Fraud charges were being made in Arkansas for beaver taken in Mississippi, said Curtis Green, director of law enforcement for the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.

"They were legally killing beaver here, where tails are worth about $5, but were turning them in in Arkansas, claiming they were killed there, and collecting a $10 bounty," Green said. "If there's a way to make money off the resource, people will find it."

Operation Delta led to arrests in Mississippi, Louisiana, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas.

In Mississippi, arrests were made today in Carroll, Grenada, Yalobusha, Humphreys, Panola, Tate, Bolivar, Washington, Yazoo and Tunica counties.


Arrests in Operation Delta included:

Bolivar County: John R. Rybolt, age unavailable, Clarksdale, sale of game fish; Danny Holland, Rosedale, headlighting deer; Randy Marquis, Rosedale, sale of deer.

Washington County: Will S. Edwards, 22, Greenville, sale of wild game; Michael Eugene Brigham, age unavailable, Glen Allan, sale of wild game.

Tunica County: Jeff Dupuis, Southaven, sale of untaxed whiskey; Wilbert Burris, Clayton, four counts sale of game.

Tate County: Gene Miller, 63, of Coldwater, one count of sale of a game animal; Mike Miller, 44, Coldwater, two counts of sale of game animals.

Yalobusha County: Jimmy McCammon, 44, and Elton McCammon, 62, both of Coffeeville, sale of game fish (crappie).

Humphreys County: Marvin Elder, 46, Indianola, purchase of illegal game.

Yazoo County: Mitchell Furr and Paul Furr, both of Eden, two counts each, sale of game.

Panola County: Romeo Holifield, Como, sale of game.

Carroll County: Jason Golding, 32, Grenada, two counts of hunting turkey over bait.

Grenada: Hunter Carrero, Holcomb, three counts sale of game, one count of being over deer possession limit.

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