|The Mountain-Prairie Region|
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228
U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE
October 31, 2003
Kevin Ellis (FWS) 970-257-0795
MICHIGAN MAN PLEADS GUILTY IN FEDERAL COURT IN DENVER
Sandy Schondelmayer, from Hastings, Mich., pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado at the U.S. Courthouse in Denver, Colo., to one count of violating the felony provisions of the Lacey Act, for the illegal interstate transportation, and purchase, of a black bear in violation of state and federal wildlife laws.
In a signed plea agreement with the government, Schondelmayer, 53, admitted to unlawfully killing a black bear in 2001, north of Craig, Colo., falsifying Colorado Division of Wildlife reporting records, and then transporting the bear back to Michigan. The government’s agreement with Schondelmayer requires him to pay $15,000 in fines and restitution and receive a lifetime suspension of his hunting privileges in Colorado and several other western states. Any term of imprisonment will be decided at the time of sentencing by the Court. Schondelmayer also forfeited numerous big game mounts to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
In the plea agreement Schondelmayer also admitted to illegally killing in Colorado and Wyoming, and transporting in interstate commerce, two elk and one mule deer, between 1997 and 2000. The investigation was initiated after a concerned citizen reported possible violations committed by Schondelmayer. The tip, which was provided through Colorado’s Division of Wildlife Operation Game Thief Program, eventually resulted in the issuance and service of a federal search warrant at Schondelmayer’s residence where numerous big game mounts were seized.
Subsequent interviews with Schondelmayer and other Michigan residents lead to additional charges being issued in Arizona and Colorado.
Based on the evidence gathered during the investigation, Schondelmayer was previously convicted in Michigan State Court in January 2003, of unlawfully killing seven white-tailed deer and one black bear between 1999 and 2001. In Michigan, Schondelmayer was ordered to pay fines and other costs totaling $10,950, sentenced to 60 days in jail, ordered to forfeit a scoped-sighted crossbow, and prohibited from hunting through 2006.
The interstate transportation and sale of wildlife taken in violation of any state laws is also a violation of the Lacey Act, a federal wildlife protection law. Schondelmayer pleaded guilty to one felony violation of the Lacey Act, which includes maximum penalties of five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.
No sentencing date has been set for Schondelmayer.
Schondelmayer’s prosecution is the result of a joint investigation by special agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and wildlife officers from the Colorado Division of Wildlife and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Environmental and Natural Resources Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado.
Operation Game Thief is a non-profit organization that works with the Division to reward citizens who report wildlife crimes. Callers don’t have to reveal their names, testify in court or sign a deposition. Rewards are paid if the information leads to the arrest of a poacher or a citation is issued. To report wildlife violations, call toll free 1-800-332-4255.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses more than 542 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 70 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
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