News and Press Releases

Wilson Daniel Ghee Pleads Guilty and Sentenced in U.S. Federal Cour

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The United States Attorney's Office announced that during a federal court session in Great Falls on March 24, 2010, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith Strong, WILSON DANIEL GHEE, a 60-year-old resident of Ohatchee, Alabama, pled guilty and was sentenced on the charge of violating the Lacey Act.

GHEE was sentenced to a term of:

Fine: $2,000

Special Assessment: $25

Forfeiture: bear hide and coyote hide

In an Offer of Proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica A. Betley, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:

In September 2008, a taxidermist in Saskatchewan obtained a permit for a tanned black bear hide for D.M., a consignee. The taxidermist exported the bear hide to D.M. but the bear hide was never picked up and it was re-exported back to the taxidermist.

In September 2009, GHEE told B.D., another Saskatchewan taxidermist, that his friend, D.M., was having trouble with a bear hide. GHEE informed B.D. that he wanted to take the bear hide back to the United States. B.D. took GHEE to the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment Office where officers explained to him the appropriate process to obtain export permits for the black bear hide. B.D. offered to assist GHEE in exporting the bear hide once the necessary funds were obtained and provided. GHEE told B.D. that he would check with his friend and would let B.D. know what to do, but he never contacted B.D.

On September 14, 2010, GHEE called B.D. and told him he was coming to Canada and wanted the black bear hide. On September 18, 2010, B.D. gave him the black bear hide which belonged to D.M., but told GHEE he needed permits to export the hide. GHEE replied that he had a good hiding spot.

On September 20, 2010, B.D. contacted the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment and told an officer that GHEE was going to unlawfully export the hide. An investigator at the Ministry of Environment passed along this information to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Authority.

On September 22, 2010, GHEE entered the Raymond Port of Entry from Canada. He claimed one whitetail deer on the form during an initial inspection. There was no mention of any additional wildlife.

GHEE was then directed to a secondary inspection where an officer who was aware that GHEE may be smuggling a black bear hide into the United States, questioned GHEE who then admitted to smuggling a black bear hide and a coyote hide. The black bear hide was found underneath the back seat of the car and the coyote hide was found in a freezer. GHEE provided a permit for the black bear hide which expired on February 18, 2009, and he did not have an export permit for the coyote hide.

Because there is no parole in the federal system, the "truth in sentencing" guidelines mandate that GHEE will likely serve all of the time imposed by the court. In the federal system, GHEE does have the opportunity to earn a sentence reduction for "good behavior." However, this reduction will not exceed 15% of the overall sentence.

The investigation was a cooperative effort between U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

A copy of the Offer of Proof can be obtained by contacting Sally Frank at (406) 247-4638.



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