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Tuesday Minot Daily News

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Patricia Stockdill/Staff Writer
N.D. Game and Fish Department director Dean Hildebrand, left, and district warden supervisor Bob Timian hold a shotgun and rifle as part of the items confiscated as the result of an undercover investigation of a North Dakota guide and outfitter.

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Poaching
Game violators hit hard with heavy penalties, fines

By: Patricia Stockdill
Editorial Staff Writer
Posted at 12:00 pm

- North Dakota's largest and most extensive undercover game violation case ended Monday in federal court in Bismarck.

Russell Stockie, formerly of Hebron and now living in Kansas, was fined $3,200, ordered to pay $4,950 in restitution, forfeited mule deer and elk mounts, lost worldwide hunting, guiding and outfitting licenses for three years, was ordered to serve 100 hours of community service and placed on three years probation.

State charges settled earlier in court earned Stockie $500 in fines, $2,025 restitution, confiscation of a .25-06 rifle and scope, $433.75 legal fees, North Dakota hunting privileges suspended for three years, 30-day suspended sentence and two years probation. Stockie was charged with conspiracy in federal court and one state count.

Stockie owned and operated Missouri River Basin Outfitters, Richardton.

His assistant guide, Jody Steifel, was also sentenced Sept. 30 in federal court under the Lacey Act.

Steifel was fined $1,600, ordered to pay $1,200 in restitution, serve 100 hours of community service, lost North American hunting privileges for two years and placed on three years probation.

Earlier state charges of 21 counts of game violations in four counties netted Steifel $3,500 in fines, confiscation of a Benelli shotgun and a whitetail deer mount, 300 hours of community service and loss of North Dakota hunting privileges for six years.

Steifel currently works with a Dickinson outfitter pending the outcome of an appeal that would have the N.D. Game and Fish Department revoke his state outfitter and guide license.

As convicted felon, Stockie cannot possess a firearm for life. "That's one of the things we wanted, was loss of firearms for life," said Lisa Leschuck, Special Assistant United States Attorney for the District of North Dakota. Leschuck is with the U.S. States Attorney office in Cheyenne, Wyo.

"This started out as an undercover investigation to look at Missouri River Basin Outfitters, run by Russell Stockie and Jody Steifel as his assistant guide," said Bob Timian, Game and Fish Department district warden supervisor, Dickinson.

But it mushroomed - the more wardens investigated, the more they found.

Two Minnesota Department of Natural Resource undercover officers provided initial evidence, which led to several related and unrelated violations in North Dakota, Nebraska and Wyoming committed by a number of people.

More than 50 people were interviewed during the course of the investigation, said Rich Grosz, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agent, Bismarck. The investigation began in the fall of 2000 after North Dakota officials received reports of potential violations relating to Stockie and Steifel. Search warrants were issued in September 2001.

Altogether, the investigation uncovered 16 defendants charged with a variety of violations ranging from the illegal taking of elk, pronghorn, white-tailed deer, mule deer, a bobcat and over-limit of pheasants or turkeys.

"They were all taken illegally from one method or another," said Timian.

The two-year statute of limitations had expired in some cases so charges could not be filed. A total of four mule deer mounts, four white-tailed deer racks or mounts, two elk mounts or racks, a Benelli shotgun and a .25-06 rifle with scope were forfeited by Stockie and Steifel.

A postscript remains in the investigation: Court proceedings are still pending against Jay Walker and Anthony Perkins, of Wyoming.

Timian credited the efforts of many people in being able to bring results to the extensive case, including undercover officers, North Dakota game wardens Doug Olson and Bill Schaller, Grosz, Leschuck and North Dakota prosecutors and courts.

"They (Minnesota DNR) provided highly professional, experienced officers," said Timian.

In turn, Leschuck credited the excellent evidence in being able to obtain convictions.
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There needs to be alot more of this. I think it's only the tip of the iceberg. A high profile case to let the smaller guides & outfitters know someone is watching.

I'm all for doubling the ND Game Wardens & enforcement of game laws.

Imagine with the huge influx of freelance hunters (to be fair - both Resident & Non Residents) Imagine the violations happening even if only a small percentage of these hunters are crooks.

If were one of the last frontiers of quality freelance hunting ??? We need the best quality Game & Fish enforcement division to go with it.
 

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It's amazing to me that I know of outfitters that've pulled the same crap and got a slap on the wrist and pety fines. But either way...it's good to see that these jokers are done.
 

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Chris, that is the difference between Federal Court and District Court in this state. Since some of these violations crossed state lines, they were prosecuted federally and those guys don't screw around. Our district courts are a joke as you noticed with the minimal penalties dished out. In some jurisdicitions the states attorneys and judges could care less unless it is dealing with drug offenses and other high profile crimes.
 
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