Three Louisiana Residents Charged with Federal Lacey Act Violations
February 13, 2014
- Sheila Wilbanks phone: (601) 965-4480, fax: (601) 965-4409
Gulfport, Miss. – Ronald W. Reine, 67, Brian R. Reine, 44, Bruce A. Swilley Jr., 27, and Omni Pinnacle, LLC, all of Slidell, Louisiana, were charged in a 13-count federal indictment with various violations of the Lacey Act for importing live white-tailed deer into Mississippi, announced U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Davis and Special Agent in Charge Luis Santiago of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Mississippi law makes it unlawful to import live white-tailed deer into the State of Mississippi and authorizes the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Commission with the responsibility of establishing regulations governing the importation of white-tailed deer with the emphasis on preventing the introduction of disease. The Commission established a regulation that mirrors the state statute, prohibiting the importation of live white-tailed deer into the State of Mississippi. The Lacey Act makes it unlawful for any person to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire or purchase wildlife that were taken, possessed, transported or sold in violation of any law or regulation of any state. The offense becomes a felony crime if the defendant knowingly engaged in conduct involving the purchase or sale, offer to purchase or sell or intent to purchase or sell, wildlife with a market value in excess of $350, knowing that the wildlife were taken, possessed, transported or sold in violation of, or in a manner unlawful under, a law or regulation of any state.
According to the indictment, from January of 2011 through December of 2012, Ronald W. Reine, Brian R. Reine, Bruce A. Swilley, Jr. and Omni Pinnacle, LLC, a company owned by the Reines, conspired to ship white-tailed deer in interstate commerce in violation of state and federal laws. Brian R. Reine operated a wildlife enclosure in Lamar County, Mississippi known as Half Moon Ranch. Ronald W. Reine operated a wildlife enclosure in Pearl River County, Mississippi known as Oak Investments, LLC/“Hunter’s Bluff”. The indictment also alleges that it was part of the conspiracy that the defendants would unlawfully bring the live white-tailed deer into Mississippi for the purpose of breeding and killing trophy white-tailed buck deer. The defendants bought and illegally transported deer into Mississippi from Indiana and Pennsylvania.
“The illegal importation of white-tailed deer into Mississippi is a growing problem with the potential for a devastating impact on our native deer herd” said U.S. Attorney Davis. “This indictment is the beginning of our efforts to combat the illegal importation of white-tailed deer and we will continue to partner with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks to identify, investigate, and prosecute people who have chosen to violate the law on importing white-tail deer.”
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent in Charge Luis Santiago stated “We take our mission working with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks and the citizens of Mississippi in conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats very seriously. We will continue working vigorously investigating those who choose to violate state and federal laws.”
The defendants were arraigned in U.S. District Court today and each was released on a $25,000 unsecured bond. A trial is scheduled for March 17, 2014 before U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden in Gulfport. If convicted, the defendants face a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine on each count. Omni Pinnacle, LLC faces a maximum fine of $500,000.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Mississippi Department of Wildlife Fisheries and Parks. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Darren J. LaMarca.
The public is reminded that an indictment is merely an accusation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov. Connect with our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/usfwssoutheast, follow our tweets at www.twitter.com/usfwssoutheast, watch our YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usfws and download photos from our Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwssoutheast.