A key case with ramifications in a few states and dealing with the possible effects of chronic wasting disease (CWD) was settled Aug. 3.
U.S. District Chief Judge Edmund A. Sargus Jr. sentenced a father and son on numerous charges related to the Lacey Act.
Donald W. Wainwright, Sr., 49, of Live Oak, Fla., was sentenced to 21 months in prison and a $125,000 fine. He faced a dozen charges related to violating the Lacey Act plus a count of conspiracy and one count of wire fraud. His son, Donald W. Wainwright, Jr., 29, of Live Oak, Fla., was sentenced to four months of house arrest and three years of probation. He faced eight charges related to violating the Lacey Act.
The case had been noted in this column in mid-March.
The Lacey Act dates back to 1900 and was the first federal law that protected wildlife. Under the Lacey Act, it is unlawful to import, export, sell or purchase wildlife or transported or sold: 1) in violation of U.S. law or 2) in interstate or foreign commerce involving any fish, wildlife or plants possessed or sold in violation of state law.
Both Wainwrights had been investigated for years. According to the FWS, the senior Wainwright had illegally shipped deer to Florida from Ohio and attempted to ship deer to Georgia from Ohio. Deer herds involved with these shipments were not certified to be free from chronic wasting disease (CWD), tuberculosis and brucellosis.
According to court documents, the father and son trafficked in live white-tailed deer. The FWS said Wainwright Sr. placed federal identification tags from a certified deer that had previously died into the ear of uncertified deer they were selling. He then sold breeding services and semen from the deer to breeders around the United States.
Trafficking like this is detrimental to the health of native wildlife in the U.S. and around the world because of its potential to spread disease.
The elder Wainwright owned hunting preserves in Logan County and Live Oak, Fla. Each preserve was named Valley View Whitetails. Wainwright, Jr. was part-time resident and part-time operator of the site in Logan County. The defendants also sold illegal white-tailed deer hunts at Valley View Whitetails of Ohio. They induced clients from around the country to hunt at Valley View Whitetails of Ohio – charging customers from $1,000 to $50,000 to kill deer inside his high fence preserve when Wainwright did not have a hunting preserve license. The customers then took the bucks back to their home states, including: Florida, Michigan, Alabama and Virginia.
The investigation involved several agencies including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Gregory Jackson, Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife, Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
“The illegal trafficking of white-tailed deer poses a very serious threat to the health of wildlife across the country. The ODNR Division of Wildlife will continue our efforts to conserve and improve Ohio’s wildlife resources, and we appreciate the cooperation in this joint investigation with the US Fish & Wildlife Service, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources,” said DOW chief Scott Zody.
“Trophy-sized white-tailed deer can sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars apiece if the animals come from herds that have been certified by government agricultural officials to be free from disease,” U.S. Attorney Carter Stewart said. “Farmers are intensely interested in the disease status of white-tailed deer herds because their diseases can be transmitted to cattle and humans with potentially fatal results.”
Gregory Jackson, FWS special agent in charge, said, “Chronic wasting disease can decimate wild deer and elk populations and we take egregious violations like this very seriously. We would like to thank our law enforcement counterparts in Ohio, Florida and Georgia for sharing their expertise and resources to fully investigate this case.”
Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or and you can follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL