Douglas Vance Crooked Arm and Kenneth G. Shane Plead Guilty in U.S. Federal Court
The United States Attorney's Office announced that during a federal court session in Billings, before U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy, on July 23, 2013, DOUGLAS VANCE CROOKED ARM, age 36, and on July 24, 2013, KENNETH G. SHANE, age 45, residents of Crow Agency, pled guilty to conspiracy to traffic in eagles and migratory birds and unlawfully trafficking in migratory birds. Sentencing has been set for October 22, 2013. They are currently released on special conditions.
In an Offer of Proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark S. Smith, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:
Operation Hanging Rock" was a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service investigation into the unlawful sale of migratory bird feathers. As part of that operation, on August 17, 2008, FWS Special Agents (SAs) went to the Crow Fair in Crow Agency. While there undercover, the agents encountered SHANE and his brother-in-law, CROOKED ARM. SHANE gave the agents his contact information and invited them to visit his house.
On November 13, 2008, the agents met with SHANE and CROOKED ARM at SHANE's father's house, south of Garryowen. An agent noticed two golden eagles flying around the area, and said to the other agent, "There's your tail, Liz." SHANE asked "Are you looking for tails?" The agent told SHANE she needed a fan for her dress. SHANE said "My brother-in-law (CROOKED ARM) has got some made, beaded and everything. He likes to hunt and everything." SHANE said "My brother-in-law got some white-tail buck and a muley buck and he is going to leave the carcasses out there." SHANE said CROOKED ARM was "bringing his carcasses out because that's what we're hunting right now," indicating they would put out the carcasses as bait to attract eagles. SHANE also said, "We put the carcass out here and we drive up and ... the black and whites haven't been so good lately, we are waiting for some more snow."
SHANE called CROOKED ARM's cell phone, asked him whether he had any fans for sale. SHANE told CROOKED ARM that the agents might be interested in purchasing them. SHANE then generally pointed out areas where he and CROOKED ARM placed deer and elk carcasses for hunting hawks and eagles. CROOKED ARM arrived at the residence and showed the agents parts of deer carcasses lying in the back of his truck. The agents asked CROOKED ARM if he needed help putting carcasses out, but CROOKED ARM said he could do it himself. One of the agents asked CROOKED ARM how he could get nice deer like those. CROOKED ARM responded, "Poach." The group noticed a golden eagle flying nearby, and SHANE told CROOKED ARM to drop a carcass in that area.
CROOKED ARM then removed one immature golden eagle fan and one magpie fan from his truck cab and showed them to the agents. CROOKED ARM then left to put out the deer carcass. SHANE told the agents he and CROOKED ARM wanted $1,500 for the golden eagle fan and $800 for the magpie fan. SHANE told one of the agents that he and CROOKED ARM had obtained the golden eagle used to make the fan the previous Christmas. The agent paid SHANE $1,500 cash and received the golden eagle fan from him. The agents also placed an order for a magpie fan. One of the agents later saw SHANE give CROOKED ARM a portion of the $1,500 they had paid for the golden eagle fan. SHANE told the agents that CROOKED ARM needed this money to make a payment on his pickup truck. SHANE said he and CROOKED ARM had a good thing going, working hard all winter to kill and trap eagles. SHANE told the agents that CROOKED ARM made regalia to sell while he stayed home taking care of his kids, and this helped the family get by during the winter.
On January 29, 2009, an agent called SHANE, and SHANE said he and CROOKED ARM were still putting out deer and elk carcasses to trap and kill eagles and hawks. The agent asked SHANE for a nice tail, and SHANE said CROOKED ARM had several so they would save one for him.
On February 11, 2009, an agent met with SHANE and they drove to CROOKED ARM's residence, in Hardin. The agent told CROOKED ARM that the other agent wanted to buy another eagle fan and a winter hawk fan. CROOKED ARM said he had plenty of tails and had sold four golden eagle fans and several hawk fans the previous week to some people from New Mexico. CROOKED ARM produced two eagle feathers from an adjoining room, and told the agent that several of his tails were similar to these feathers. CROOKED ARM agreed to a $500 deposit, and told the agent to e-mail him the specifics for the fans. CROOKED ARM gave the agent his phone numbers. The agent paid CROOKED ARM the $500 deposit.
On March 8, 2009, CROOKED ARM sent one of the agents an e-mail containing photos of a bald eagle fan and a winter hawk (rough-legged) tail he intended to use for her hawk fan. CROOKED ARM wrote that he only had two weeks to finish the agents's hawk fan before a powwow in Denver. He asked the agent if the hawk in the photo was acceptable. Later that day, in a second e-mail to the agent, CROOKED ARM wrote that the bald eagle fan from the photo took extra time because he had to send it to a friend to clean off the blood, and there was a lot of blood.
The next day, March 9, 2009, CROOKED ARM called the agent and asked what colors she wanted on her fan. On March 10, 2009, CROOKED ARM called the other agent to tell him that his $500 deposit would be payment for the "winter hawk" fan, but the bald eagle tail fan from the photo would cost $1,000 because he had to pull a few strings to get it in time for the Denver powwow.
On the morning of March 11, 2009, a FWS Special Agent served a search warrant on CROOKED ARM's residence in Hardin. They seized, among other things, a hand-written note containing the undercover agent's order for a winter hawk feather fan, and one bald eagle feather fan. After agents read him his rights, CROOKED ARM signed an Advice of Rights Form, and agreed to cooperate. CROOKED ARM retrieved the undercover agent's order from the top of his refrigerator and admitted he knew the two undercover agents in connection with the note.
That same morning, another FWS Special Agent, accompanied by six other special agents, served a search warrant on SHANE's father's home south of Garryowen. SHANE arrived a few minutes after the agents. The agents advised SHANE of the search warrant and SHANE agreed to speak with them briefly. A Special Agent told SHANE he would not be arrested and explained the undercover agent's true identity. SHANE admitted that he knew it was illegal to sell hawk and eagle parts.
SHANE admitted that CROOKED ARM sold a golden eagle peyote fan to the undercover agents, but claimed he never counted the money they paid him, having given the entire amount to CROOKED ARM. SHANE also told the agents he saw one of the undercover agents show CROOKED ARM a sketch and discuss purchasing a hawk fan with beadwork to match her skirt. SHANE said he had a permitted eagle from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which he had used to make a bustle for his dance costume, stored in the basement. The agents photographed this bustle, but did not seize it. SHANE said that CROOKED ARM had called him the day before to ask for one of the undercover agent's phone number to complete the sale of a bronze hawk fan and bald eagle tail fan.
They each face possible penalties of 5 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and 3 years supervised release on Count I, and possible penalties of 2 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and 1 year supervised release on Count II.
The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.