Three Charged with Conspiring to Provide Illegal Big Game Hunts in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve
Anchorage, Alaska – Acting U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder announced today that a federal grand jury in Anchorage has returned an indictment charging Jeffrey Harris, 44, from Poulsbo, WA, Dale Lackner, 72, from Haines, AK, and Casey Richardson, 47, from Huson, MT, with conspiring to provide illegal hunts for Dall Sheep, creating false records, and making false statements to federal agents in order to conceal the illegality of the hunts. Charges were also filed for illegally baiting game, and using xylitol, a substance toxic to wolves and coyotes, for predator control. All of the hunts occurred at the Ptarmigan Lake Lodge in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.
According to the indictment, Ptarmigan Lake Lodge (PLL) was permitted to operate as a concessionaire to provide sport hunting guide services within Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. The indictment alleges that, during the 2014 and 2015 hunting seasons, out-of-state hunters illegally hunted and killed Dall Sheep at PLL without being accompanied by a registered guide. Harris and Richardson, not Alaska residents nor registered guides, are charged with illegally hunting themselves and conducting many of the illegal hunts. Lackner, a registered guide in 2015, conspired with Richardson to conduct an illegal hunt. The indictment further alleges that Harris and Lackner created false State of Alaska hunt records claiming the hunts were conducted with registered guides. Harris later made false statements to law enforcement during the investigation into the illegal activities at PLL.
In addition, the indictment alleges that Harris also engaged in illegal predator control by establishing bait piles. Richardson and Harris then used xylitol, an artificial sweetener in many food products, but deadly to canines and birds, on the bait piles to kill wolves and coyotes; such conduct is prohibited on a national preserve.
The law provides for a maximum sentence of five years in prison, and a $250,000 fine, or both. Under federal sentencing statutes, the actual sentences imposed will be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendants.
It is lawful to hunt in a federal preserve if in compliance with federal and state laws.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the State of Alaska Wildlife Troopers, and the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks conducted the investigation leading to the indictment in the case.
An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.