Law Enforcement
Southwest Region
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Whooping crane at Bosque del Apache

Southwest Region Office of Law Enforcement


Case Study

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The Southwest Region covers the States of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma and shares over 1,650 miles of border with Mexico. The Region contains diverse fish and wildlife resources, including over 250 species of fish, wildlife, and plants that are federally protected under the Endangered Species Act. It encompasses habitats that range from lowland deserts and seemingly endless plains to gulf coast beaches and towering mountain peaks.

Wildlife law enforcement efforts are coordinated with State game and fish agencies and with Federal counterparts; new partnerships include increased liaison with the U.S. Marshals Service in the Southwest. Special agents and wildlife inspectors in the Region provide law enforcement support to more than 40 National Wildlife Refuges, 27 National Parks, 20 National Forests, over 30 million square miles of other Federal and State land areas, over 100 distinct Native American tribal areas, and 24 Customs ports of entry.

Challenges in the Region range from protecting endangered Mexican wolves to foiling interstate trafficking of wildlife ranging from freshwater fish to big game species. Enforcement work includes promoting compliance under Federal wildlife laws by oil and gas producers and other industries whose activities affect protected birds; inspecting wildlife imports and exports at two designated ports (Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston) and four border crossings (Nogales, Arizona, and Brownsville, El Paso, and Laredo in Texas); and partnering with Service biologists to address issues affecting protected species and their habitat.

Law Enforcement News

orangutan skull

Orangutan skull. Credit: USFWS.

Anderson Man Sentenced for Smuggling Orangutan Skulls

September 2016

VICTORIA, Texas - A professional reptile breeder has entered a guilty plea to smuggling two orangutan skulls into the country from Indonesia, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson along with Southwest Region Special Agent in Charge Nicholas E. Chavez of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).

Graham Scott Criglow, 39, pleaded guilty before Senior U.S. District Judge John D. Rainey today. Criglow was ordered to pay a $2,500 fine and must serve three years of probation.

Read more about the case.


Taxidermist Sentenced for Violating Wildlife Laws

July 2016
Department of Justice - A Corpus Christi taxidermist and hunting guide has been sentenced for violating the Lacey Act, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). He also abandoned more than 60 species of bird mounts that were illegally killed to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).

Eric Martin Schmidt, 35, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jason B. Libby today and was ordered to pay a $2,500 community service payment to the Lacey Act Reward Fund, and must also serve five years of probation.

Read the entire DoJ news release.

Cochiti Pueblo Man Arraigned on Federal Indictment Alleging Violation of Migratory Bird Treaty Act

July 2016
Wayne Martin, 44, a member and resident of Cochiti Pueblo, N.M., was arraigned this morning in federal court in Albuquerque, N.M., on an indictment charging him with violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. During today’s proceedings, Martin entered a not guilty plea to the indictment.

The indictment alleges that Martin offered to sell three hawks without previously obtaining permission from the Secretary of the Department of the Interior, in violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. According to the indictment, Martin committed the crime on Feb. 29, 2012, in Sandoval County, N.M. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act makes it unlawful to possess, offer for sale, or sell any migratory bird, or any part or product of a migratory bird.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeremy Peña.


African leopard mount

African leopard mount. Photo credit: USFWS.

Federal Jury In Sherman Convicts Oklahoma Man For Endangered Species Violations
African Leopard mount shipped in interstate commerce

Febraury 2016
Yesterday, U.S. Attorney John M. Bales announced that after just over 3 hours of deliberations, a federal jury in Sherman, Texas found an Oklahoma man guilty of committing Lacey Act and Endangered Species Act violations in connection with the shipment of an African Leopard trophy mount from Oklahoma to the Eastern District of Texas.

Learn more...



Rhino. Photo credit: USFWS.

Irish National Sentenced to 12 Months in Prison for Trafficking in Endangered Rhinoceros Horns

January 2016
Department of Justice - Patrick Sheridan, an Irish national, was sentenced in federal court in Waco, Texas, today to 12 months in prison for conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act in relation to illegal rhinoceros horn trafficking, announced Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice  and U.S. Attorney Richard L. Durbin Jr. for the Western District of Texas and Director Dan Ashe of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Learn more...


Whooping Crane

Whooping crane. Photo credit: USFWS.

Jefferson County Man Arrested for Killing Whooping Cranes

January 2016
BEAUMONT, Texas – U.S. Attorney John M. Bales announced that an 18-year-old Beaumont, Texas man has been arrested for federal violations in the Eastern District of Texas. Trey Joseph Frederick was arrested today pursuant to a criminal complaint issued by the U.S. District Court charging him with violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Frederick appeared in federal court this afternoon on the charges.

Learn more...


red tailed hawk

Red tailed hawk in flight. Photo credit: C. Koppie, USWFS.

Rice Farmer Convicted and Fined for Poisoning Birds

January 2016
Southwest Region Special Agent in Charge Nicholas E. Chavez of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in cooperation with U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced that the operator of a Danbury rice farm has entered a guilty plea to illegally killing 65 brown-headed cowbirds and four red-tailed hawks.

Nelson Bulanek, 54, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jason B. Libby today. Bulanek was ordered to pay a $10,000 community service payment to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Operation Game Thief Program and must serve two years of probation.

Learn more...


Defendants Reach Plea Deal in Helicopter Harassment Case

December 2015
(FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.) Two individuals accused of harassing wildlife with a helicopter have signed a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Chad Logan Smith, manager of a ranch in northern Arizona and Christopher Morris Atkinson, a contracted helicopter pilot working for the ranch, agreed to deferred sentences for their role in the August, 2014 incident.

Learn more...

Southwest Region Archived News Releases

Search additional archived news releases for the Southwest Region


Case study of Southwest Law Enforcement working with industry
Read the Office of Law Enforcement Accomplishments in their Annual Report
Last updated: September 27, 2016