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COLUMBUS – Donald W. Wainwright Sr., 49, of Live Oak, Florida, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to 12 charges related to violating the Lacey Act, one count of conspiracy and one count of wire fraud.
Carter Stewart, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Greg Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, United States Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement, Chief Scott Zody, Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife, Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Georgia Department of Natural Resources announced the plea entered into today before U.S. District Chief Judge Edmund A. Sargus, Jr.
According to court documents, Wainwright illegally trafficked in live white-tailed deer. Wainwright owned hunting preserves in Logan County, Ohio, and Live Oak, Florida; both preserves were named Valley View Whitetails. Wainwright illegally shipped deer to Florida from Ohio and attempted to ship deer to Georgia from Ohio. The deer herds involved with these shipments were not certified to be free from chronic wasting disease, tuberculosis and brucellosis. Federal Law requires interstate shipment of deer to be certified to be disease free. As a result, deer herds in Florida were potentially exposed to these diseases. Wainwright’s attempted shipment to Georgia was intercepted on I-71 South, about 50 miles from the Ohio River, when Ohio Wildlife officers noticed deer noses and antlers inside a cargo trailer and pulled over a truck driven by Wainwright’s employees.
Wainwright also sold illegal white-tailed deer hunts at Valley View Whitetails of Ohio. The defendant induced clients from around the country to hunt at Valley View Whitetails of Ohio – charging customers from $1,000 to $50,000 to kill deer inside his high fence preserve when Wainwright did not have a hunting preserve license. The customers then took the bucks back to their home states, including: Florida, Michigan, Alabama and Virginia.
Wainwright pleaded guilty to 12 charges related to violating the Lacey Act, one count of conspiracy and one count of wire fraud. The parties have proposed a sentence of 21 months in prison and a fine of $125,000.00.
“One of the many dangers of illegal wildlife trafficking is its potential to spread disease,” U.S. Attorney Stewart said. “My office is committed to combating this serious threat.”
Under the Lacey Act it is unlawful to import, export, sell or purchase wildlife or transported, or sold: 1) in violation of U.S. law or 2) in interstate or foreign commerce involving any fish, wildlife, or plants taken possessed or sold in violation of State law. When it was passed in 1900, the Lacey Act became the first federal law protecting wildlife.
U.S. Attorney Stewart commended the cooperative investigation by law enforcement, as well as Special Assistant United States Attorney Heather Robinson and Assistant United States Attorneys Peter Glenn-Applegate and J. Michael Marous, who are representing the United States in this case.