|The Mountain-Prairie Region|
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228
September 23, 2003
Roger Gephart (U.S. FWS)
Iowa Man Pleads Guilty in Federal Court to Poaching 38 Trophy Deer and Elk Over 10 Year Period in Iowa and Colorado
George Allen Waters, a farmer from rural West Branch, Iowa, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa at Rock Island, Ill., to the illegal interstate transportation and sale of 38 illegally-killed trophy white-tailed deer, elk and mule deer in violation of state and federal wildlife laws. In his plea agreement, Waters, 53, admitted to "poaching" a total of 45 trophy-quality animals, valued at $270,000, from locations in Iowa and Colorado beginning in 1992. He also pleaded guilty to illegally possessing a fully-automatic machine gun. Sentencing will take place on December 2, 2003.
Waters entered his guilty plea in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas J. Shields. According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey B. Lang who prosecuted the case, the government’s agreement with Waters requires him to serve five years in federal prison without parole, pay a fine of $10,000, a $300 special assessment and serve three years supervised probation upon his release from prison. Waters will also pay restitution of $30,000 to be divided equally between Colorado and Iowa. He will also forfeit numerous animal trophy mounts, skulls, parts and other hunting items seized by state and federal law enforcement agents during the investigation. Nine firearms were seized, including a 9mm automatic machine gun.
Water’s prosecution is the result of a joint investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Special Agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and enforcement officers of the Colorado Division of Wildlife and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. An investigator from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources also assisted in the investigation.
Waters admitted that from 1992 through the fall of 2002, he repeatedly snuck into the Iowa Army Ammunition Plant near Middletown, Iowa, and killed 24 trophy white-tailed deer. After killing the deer, he would retrieve only the antlers and heads, leaving the remainder of the animal to waste. He also poached other whitetail deer in locations near Rochester, Bluegrass, Solon and other locations in Iowa. He would then attempt to sell the prized "racks," many of which were
scored and registered by The Boone and Crockett Club, a Montana-based non-profit club that maintains a registry of trophy animals. Water’s knew that the Boone and Crockett scores would increase the trophies’ market value. In March 2003, Waters sold antlers from three trophy deer to an undercover agent of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
During the same 10-year period, Waters admitted to poaching eight trophy elk and six mule deer in western Colorado. Again, Waters took only the animals’ antlers and heads and left the carcasses to rot. He transported the elk and mule deer he killed in Colorado to Iowa, with the intention of selling trophy racks. Waters did not possess a license to hunt elk or mule deer during any of his trips to Colorado. In 1992 and 1998, he purchased a non-resident bear hunting license to gain access to hunting areas closed to firearm elk and deer hunting. In Colorado and Iowa, Waters also used out-dated and previously used licenses and "tags" to disguise his trophies as being taken by legitimate hunters.
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. Waters pleaded guilty to two felony violations of the Lacey Act, which include maximum penalties of five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine for each offense. Possession of a machine gun, also a felony, carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.
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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