News and Press Releases

Seville Colony, Edward Waldner and Thomas Wipf Sentenced in U.S. District Cour

Monday, January 30, 2012

The United States Attorney's Office announced that during a federal court session in Missoula, on January 30, 2012, before U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy, the SEVILLE COLONY, EDWARD WALDNER, age 61, and THOMAS WIPF, age 50, residents of Cut Bank, appeared for sentencing.

SEVILLE COLONY was sentenced for illegal pesticide use to a term of:

Probation: 1 year (unsupervised)

Special Assessment: $25

Restitution: $90,274.41

WALDNER was sentenced in connection with his guilty plea to making false statements to a term of:

Probation: 1 year (unsupervised)

Special Assessment: $100

Restitution: $1,000

WIPF was sentenced in connection with his guilty plea to misapplication of pesticides to a term of:

Probation: 6 months (unsupervised)

Special Assessment: $25

Restitution: $1,000

In an Offer of Proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kris McLean and Laura B. Weiss, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:

On April 15, 2011, a Cut Bank area resident, identified here as "John Doe", found his horse lying dead approximately 75 yards from the fence line his pasture shared with the Seville Colony on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. He observed blood coming from the horse's eyes, nose, mouth, and anus. "John Doe" called a local veterinarian and described his horse's condition. The veterinarian advised the horse had likely ingested poison. "John Doe" walked the fence line and collected oats that had been spread around gopher holes. He also took a blood sample from his dead horse and provided the sample and oats he had collected to the local veterinarian. Testing of the oats collected by him revealed they contained strychnine.

After collecting the poison oats, "John Doe" confronted WALDNER - Secretary of the Seville Hutterite Colony, about the oats. Initially, WALDNER denied knowledge of poison oats, but later stated that the Colony had used poison oats containing strychnine to control gophers by placing the poison oats around gopher holes on the fence line earlier that day.

On April 18, 2011, another neighbor to the Seville Hutterite Colony, identified here as "John Smith", found one of his horses dead in a field next to property controlled by the Colony. The horse had blood coming from its eyes, nose, mouth, and anus. "John Smith" confronted WALDNER who told him he wanted to keep this matter just between the two of them.

On April 19, 2011, an EPA Pesticide Inspector responded to the Blackfeet Reservation to conduct an inspection at the Seville Colony concerning "John Doe's" report of a dead horse apparently killed by poison. Upon arriving at the Colony to conduct his inspection, he met with WALDNER. WALDNER told him that he was unaware of the pesticides the Colony used to control gophers and informed him that he would need to speak with the Colony farm boss, WIPF. WALDNER advised the inspector that WIPF was not available at that time. The inspector asked WALDNER about the type of pesticide and application method the Colony used. WALDNER stated he did not know the type, but knew it was a grain or oat based pesticide and it was applied with a spoon and bucket. The inspector asked WALDNER if they had any pesticide left and WALDNER told him, "no." He then asked WALDNER if the Colony had any empty chemical bags left and WALDNER told him, "no." The inspector was unable to complete his inspection at that time.

On April 20, 2011, the inspector visited Hi Line Chemical of Santa Rita. That business' records revealed it had sold 10 bags of oats containing strychnine to the Seville Colony in late March, 2011.

On April 21, 2011, EPA-CID agents responded to the Seville Colony and interviewed WIPF. During this interview WIPF explained that he had become farm boss a few months prior and had recently received his pesticide applicator's license. WIPF stated that he had purchased about 15 bags of poison oats approximately three weeks prior. WIPF stated the oats were to kill gophers and that he had applied about five bags of oats so far. WIPF described his application process as "every individual hole, I put some down the hole." WIPF took the agents to the shed where the Colony stored the poison oats. In the shed, agents found 8 bags of Peterson's Pocket Gopher Killer III. Agents collected a label from one of the bags which specifically directs the application of the pesticide in a specially designed device placed underground unavailable to animals on the land surface. Agents also found an open bag of the pesticide approximately 2/3 full.

During the interview of WIPF, WALDNER arrived at WIPF's home. WALDNER agreed to be interviewed by the agents. WALDNER stated he was aware that WIPF had purchased pesticide, but initially told the agents he was not aware what was in the oats. WALDNER clarified that he did not know the oats contained strychnine until after the horses had died. WALDNER then admitted that he went to the storage shed at approximately 3:00 p.m. on April 19, 2011 and found several bags of the oat pesticide in the shed. He admitted that he read the label on one of the bags and learned it contained strychnine. He admitted he made these observations and learned this information before speaking with the EPA inspector. When agents asked WALDNER why he did not tell the inspector the truth when asked about remaining bags of pesticide, WALDNER told agents he did not want him to know the information.

On May 12-13, 2011, EPA conducted a clean-up of the illegally applied pesticide that encompassed approximately 300 acres. The clean-up resulted in the removal of eight 55-gallon drums of poisoned oats and entrained soils. These drums were removed on June 23, 2011, and sent to a hazardous waste disposal facility.

The needless death of two horses is a sad reminder that pesticides need to be used safely and legally," said Lori Hanson, Special Agent-in-Charge of EPA's criminal enforcement program in Denver. "Individuals who misuse these products and endanger wildlife will be prosecuted."

A core priority of the Department of Justice is to ensure that all federal criminal statutes are enforced - including environmental laws designed to protect public health and safety. When violators of environmental laws are discovered they will be prosecuted. Here Seville Colony used strychnine laced oats without regard for the health and safety of other livestock that did encounter the poison." United States Attorney for the District of Montana Michael W. Cotter.

The investigation was conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency - Criminal Investigation Division.



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