Wildlife Investigation Yields Over $235,000 In Penalties
United States Attorney Brendan V. Johnson and South Dakota Attorney General Marty J. Jackley announced that eighteen (18) individuals have pleaded guilty and were sentenced in both State and Federal Court to fines, restitution, and civil damages in excess of $235,000 for wildlife violations that occurred at a commercial hunting operation in Todd County, South Dakota between 2008-2012.
The investigation conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe revealed that John and Kathryn Chauncey hosted paying hunting clients from Michigan, Texas, and New Jersey for guided deer and pheasant hunts on their property known as Rock Creek Ranch. The investigation documented that John and Kathryn Chauncey, along with several of their hunting clients, unlawfully killed and possessed a minimum of fifty-six (56) deer, hawks, owls, badgers, and turkeys. The value of the unlawfully killed wildlife was documented to be over $70,000.
“This is one of the largest wildlife cases in South Dakota history. It is important to recognize the efforts of the state and federal officers involved in this investigation,” said Jeff Vonk, Secretary of the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks. “Additionally, I would like to recognize the concerned citizens who provided critical pieces of information to state officers that initially triggered the investigation. Thanks to all involved for a job well done.”
John Chauncey pled guilty in Federal Court to a felony charge of Conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act and multiple counts of Unlawful Possession of wildlife in State Court. He was sentenced to two (2) months in custody and ordered to pay $92,285.
Kathryn Chauncey pled guilty in Federal Court to violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and unlawfully transferring a hunting license in State Court. She was sentenced to probation and ordered to pay $10,500.
“The Rock Creek Ranch investigation exposed the large-scale illegal commercial exploitation of South Dakota wildlife resources,” said William C. Woody, Assistant Director for Law Enforcement of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “This case shows the importance of Federal and State officers working together to protect our resident wildlife species.”
Sixteen (16) other defendants also pled guilty to State and Federal wildlife violations as a result of the investigation and were sentenced to fines ranging from $500 to more than $26,000 per person. Collectively, the defendants in this case had their hunting privileges revoked for forty-five (45) years and were additionally sentenced to nineteen (19) years of probation.
U.S. Attorney Johnson and South Dakota Attorney General Jackley lauded the investigation. “We will continue bring to justice those who flaunt South Dakota’s wildlife laws,” said Johnson. “I commend the work of our state and federal law enforcement partners who vigilantly protect our natural resources.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Meghan N. Dilges and Special Assistant Attorney General Paul Bachand prosecuted the case.