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
| Alligator snapping turtle. Credit: USFWS.
Four Men Charged With the Illegal Trafficking of Threatened Alligator Snapping Turtles
The Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that four men have been charged for their involvement in the illegal trafficking of alligator snapping turtles.
Read the entire DOJ news release.
Young Voices Demand We Stand for Wildlife video. Credit: Vermont School Commons.
Watch the Vermont School Commons production, "Young Voices Demand We Stand for Wildlife."
The Vermont Comons School engages students with their world. Their programs and curriculums involve the students in local and global issues to help in their journey of self-discovery.
Watch the Vermont Commons School video, "Young Voices Demand We Stand for Wildlife."
Texas Man Pleads Guilty to Poisoning Protected Migratory Birds and Unlawful Use of Pesticide
|Investigating cases that involve the unlawful use of poisons is hazardous. The photo shows the special agent wearing a protective suit while investigating this case. Credit: USFWS.
John Purviance, age 46, of Bowie County, TX has plead guilty to killing protected migratory birds and the unlawful use of pesticides on his property in violation of federal law. Purviance entered pleas of guilty on both misdemeanor charges before U.S. Magistrate Judge Caroline Craven in the Texarkana Division of the Eastern District of Texas at a hearing on March 21, 2017.
Man Charged in a Three-count Indictment with Lacey Act Violations
On February 21, 2017, Jonathan Benson was charged in a three-count indictment with Lacey Act violations 16 U.S.C. §§ 3372 (a)(2)(A),(d)(2), 3373 (d)(l)(B), 3373(d)(3)(A)) for taking reptiles from Arizona and selling them in South Carolina.
In November 2013, Benson allegedly sold two falsely labelled Gila monsters, two Prairie rattlesnakes, two Tiger rattlesnakes,and one Speckled rattlesnake in interstate commerce. Benson is further charged with making a similar transaction in July 2014.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, and the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
| Rescued eaglet. Credit: Chuck Ardizzone, USFWS.
Teen Arrested in Connection with Shooting Death of Bald Eagle
Surviving eaglet rescued from nest
On February 22, 2017, an American bald eagle was shot in north Harris County, Texas, near White Oak Bayou. The eagle was one of two adult eagles that have actively nested in this area for several years.
A tip about the possible shooting of an eagle led Texas Parks and Wildlife Department game wardens, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agents, and Harris County sheriff’s deputies to an area in north Harris County. The eagle carcass was recovered and following a brief investigation an arrest made.
Read the entire news release.
Montana Man Indicted for Smuggling Protected Wildlife Items, Including Bald and Golden Eagle Feathers, into the United States
Dennis Raymond McPherron of Hamilton, MT has been charged with illegally smuggling items made from protected wildlife, including bald and golden eagle feathers, into the United States. A one-count indictment charging McPherron was returned by a federal grand jury on February 15, 2017.
Acting U.S. Attorney for Arizona, Elizabeth A. Strange, and Special Agent in Charge for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Nicholas E. Chavez, made the announcement.
According to the indictment, McPherron was caught smuggling protected wildlife items into the U.S. at the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales, AZ. According to investigators, McPherron was caught in possession of 220 feathers, from which the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory determined the origins as: a minimum of eight individual Northern Flickers, four endangered Military Macaws, one Bald Eagle, one Golden Eagle, one Crested Caracara, one Greater Roadrunner, one Blue-and-Yellow Macaw, one Scarlet Macaw, one unspecified toucan, and one unspecified cockatoo.
Read the entire news release.
| Filipino jewelry. Credit: Office of Law Enforcement, USFWS.
Federal Grand Jury Indicts Five In Connection With International Scheme To Fraudulently Import And Sell Filipino-Made Jewelry As Native American-Made
Second Indictment Resulting from Continuing Investigation into Alleged Violations of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act
ALBUQUERQUE – A federal grand jury sitting in Albuquerque, N.M., returned an indictment on Tuesday charging five individuals with violating the Indian Arts and Crafts Act (IACA) by conspiring to import and fraudulently sell Filipino-made jewelry as Native American-made. This is the second indictment filed as the result of a continuing federal investigation that began in Jan. 2015 and is led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with the assistance of the FBI and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). The investigation targeted an international scheme to violate the IACA and has included the execution of eight search and seizure warrants and investigative activity in New Mexico, California, Alaska, Kentucky, Nevada and the Philippines.
New Mexico Man Pleaded Guilty to Violating the MBTA
Wayne Martin pleaded guilty violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act by selling three hawks without permission. Mr. martin is a member and resident of Cochiti Pueblo, N.M., pleaded guilty today in federal court in Albuquerque, N.M., to violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The guilty plea was entered without the benefit of a plea agreement.
For more information read the press release.
Jefferson County Man Sentenced for Killing Whooping Cranes
Wintering whooping cranes flying over Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: USFWS.
A 19-year-old Beaumont, Texas man has been sentenced for federal wildlife violations in the Eastern District of Texas announced Acting U.S. Attorney Brit Featherston.
Trey Joseph Frederick pleaded guilty on May 23, 2016 to a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and was sentenced to five years of federal probation today by U.S. Magistrate Judge Zack Hawthorn. As part of his probation, Frederick is prohibited from owning or possessing firearms, ammunition or any other dangerous weapon. He is also prohibited from hunting or fishing anywhere in the United States.
For more information read the press release.
Orangutan skull. Credit: USFWS.
Anderson Man Sentenced for Smuggling Orangutan Skulls
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
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
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. Photo credit: USFWS.
Federal Jury In Sherman Convicts Oklahoma Man For Endangered Species Violations
African Leopard mount shipped in interstate commerce
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.
Rhino. Photo credit: USFWS.
Irish National Sentenced to 12 Months in Prison for Trafficking in Endangered Rhinoceros Horns
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.
Whooping crane. Photo credit: USFWS.
Jefferson County Man Arrested for Killing Whooping Cranes
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.
Rice Farmer Convicted and Fined for Poisoning Birds
Red tailed hawk in flight. Photo credit: C. Koppie, USWFS.
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.
Defendants Reach Plea Deal in Helicopter Harassment Case
(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.
Southwest Region Archived News Releases
Search additional archived news releases for the Southwest Region