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Big Poaching cases in Local Paper today

shoots-straight

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Poachers charged with felonies in 2003 case
by JOHN CRAMER - Ravalli Republic



Two Washington state men have been charged in a cold case of poaching in the Bitterroot Valley.

Brent Mercado of Concrete, Wash., and Alan Sweet of Sedro Wooley, Wash., made their initial appearance Monday in Ravalli County Justice Court.

Each man is charged with three felony counts in connection with the killing of a bighorn sheep, a mule deer and an antelope in Ravalli and Beaverhead counties between October and November 2003.

The felony is unlawful possession of game animals. Each man also faces misdemeanor charges of waste of game, hunting with the aid of a spotlight and hunting without a license.
The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks started investigating the case in 2007 after Sweet’s wife, Michelle, told the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife that Sweet had committed fish and game violations.

Sweet and Mercado, who were hunting companions, killed a buck antelope in Beaverhead County before killing a mule deer buck and a bighorn ram in Ravalli County, according to court documents.

The men used a spotlight to shoot the bighorn ram from U.S. Highway 93 near Sula, then skinned out the body, kept the head and hide and abandoned the carcass in the field, the documents said.

Sweet and Mercado later talked openly about the poaching in front of Michelle Sweet, who saw with the dead animals and photographed the men with their bounty, the documents said.

Washington investigators interviewed Sweet, who confessed to the unlawful hunting trip into Montana and pointed out the kill sites on a map, the documents said.

Sweet allowed authorities to search his storage unit, where they found the bighorn ram’s head and hide. He also relinquished the mule deer’s antlers.

Washington investigators later interviewed Mercado, who also admitted to the poachings, the court documents said.

The total value of the dead animals is $3,000, making the crimes a felony.

Mercado and Sweet, who accused each other of pulling the trigger, have never had a valid hunting license in Montana.

A preliminary hearing date was set for July 22 or 23 for both men, who were each released on a $10,000 bond.

Log on to RavalliRepublic.com to comment on this and other stories.

Reporter John Cramer can be reached at 363-3300 or [email protected].


Brothers accept plea bargains in poaching case
By JOHN CRAMER Ravalli Republic



HAMILTON - State wildlife authorities and Ravalli County prosecutors closed the case on the major players in a long-running family poaching ring in the Bitterroot Valley on Wednesday.

In the end, the convictions will tap the pocketbooks of the Roberts family for nearly $13,000 and keep them away from Montana's big game for more than three decades.

Two brothers - Shon Roberts of Umatilla County in Oregon and David Roberts of Missoula - pleaded guilty to multiple counts of illegally killing big game over the past decade.


Their parents, John and Gail Roberts of Conner, and a family friend, Jayson Lucy of Arlee, were convicted in May as part of the same case.

The only participant in the poaching ring still being sought is a teenage boy who had a lesser role.

Prosecutors and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks investigators said the Roberts family killed at least 31 elk and whitetail and mule deer from 1997 to 2007 on national forest land and private land in the Dickson Creek drainage near Conner.

Authorities said the number of poached animals likely was far higher, but that they have only been able to document 31.

According to court records, the elder Roberts bought in-state hunting licenses and gave them to their sons, who lived in Oregon at the time, so they could avoid paying the higher nonresident license fees. Besides the license and tag violations, the Robertses killed game out of season.

“This case is as serious as it gets,” said FWP criminal investigator J.D. Douglas. “The parents were assisting others from out of state and essentially destroying Montana's resources. The whole family was involved. They treated this area like their own personal poaching grounds, but they've shown no remorse.”

Shon Roberts was originally charged with one felony and four misdemeanors, but under a plea agreement he pleaded guilty to four misdemeanors and no contest to one misdemeanor, including hunting without a license, hunting out of season and unlawful possession of a game animal.

Ravalli District Court Judge Jeffrey Langton sentenced Shon Roberts to 30 months of probation, ordered him to pay $3,675 in restitution, fees and court costs, revoked his hunting and trapping privileges for 13 years and confiscated the weapons and animals poached in the case.

David Roberts was originally charged with multiple felonies and misdemeanors, but under a plea agreement he pleaded guilty to one felony for unlawful taking of wildlife.

Langton gave him a deferred sentence of six years of probation and ordered him to pay $7,700 in restitution, fees and court costs, revoked his hunting and trapping privileges for 18 years and fishing privileges for three years and confiscated the weapons and animals poached in the case.

The deferred sentence means his record will be cleared if he completes the conditions of his sentence.

Langton also ordered David Roberts to turn himself in to Oregon authorities within a year on an arrest warrant for assault.

In May, John Roberts was found guilty in a bench trial in Ravalli County Justice Court of one count of illegally loaning his hunting license. He was fined $1,035 and had his hunting privileges revoked for a year.

Later that month, Gail Roberts pled guilty to the same charge was fined $335 and had her hunting license revoked for a year.

Lucy pleaded guilty to unlawfully killing a game animal, unlawfully possessing a game animal and hunting over bait. He was ordered to pay $2,500 in fines, restitution and court costs and had his hunting privileges revoked for two years.

The case started in 2006 when FWP staffers found discrepancies during a routine review of licensing purchases. A confidential informant provided the FWP with further details in 2008.

Roberts, FWP Game Warden Lou Royce and Oregon authorities served search warrants on the homes of Shon Roberts, Dave Roberts, John and Gail Roberts, and Lucy in 2008.

They found antlers from some of the poached animals, photographs and other evidence, although the meat had apparently all been eaten.

In the comment section of the paper there's actually people standing up for these pigs.
 

Randy11

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Jan 12, 2009
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Unbelievable, as if you guys don't have enough to deal with down there as it is.
A bighorn sheep too, right off the highway, what idiots. Wonder why the $30,000 penalty wasn't used?
 

Baerman

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Boy-see
Murderers! They're getting off way too easy. Maybe they should be released way back in the wilderness with no clothes, cow in heat scent all over them during the rut, and a electronic mew call around thier neck that is continually calling. Wolves will find them within a week if they make it that long. If they are going to take from the land then the land should take from them.
 

shoots-straight

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Bitterroot Valley
I was thinking more on the lines of how a fox farmer here harvests his foxes. You stick an electrode in their arse and put one in the mouth. It may not be a human life, but people like this move on to other crimes.
 

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