JOINT INVESTIGATION INTO POACHING RING ON MILITARY INSTALLATION LEADS TO GUILTY PLEAS

Release Date: 06/30/2010

On June 23, 2010, two U.S. Army soldiers pled guilty in U.S. Magistrate Court to illegal hunting activities on Peason Ridge Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in 2006 and 2007.

Sergeant First Class (SFC) William M. Hutt, 36, of Pitkin, and SFC Andres I. Medrano, 36, of DeRidder, both pled guilty to one count each of taking deer during a closed season and taking turkey during a closed season.  A third defendant, Roderick R. Lowers (U.S. Army retired), 42, of DeRidder, also reached an agreement with the U.S. Attorney?s Office in which his charges were dropped in exchange for his testimony against Hutt and Medrano.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Enforcement Division began the investigation in October 2007, after agents received information that soldiers were killing a large number of deer illegally on the Peason Ridge WMA during training exercises. 

Peason Ridge WMA is owned by the U.S. Army and is used for live fire training exercises by the military.  The 20,000-acre WMA is enclosed by a fence and all access points are locked during live fire training for security and safety concerns.  Hutt, Medrano and Lowers used their military positions to keep the WMA locked down after live fire training exercises in order to poach deer and turkey.

Federal Magistrate Kathleen Kay accepted the guilty pleas and ordered both Hutt and Medrano to each pay a fine and court cost in the amount of $1,920.  She also revoked their hunting privileges for five years and placed them on supervised probation for two years. 

Magistrate Kay also ordered the men to pay restitution to LDWF for the illegally taken deer and turkeys.  Hutt is responsible to pay restitution in the amount of $7,374.94 for 11 deer and two turkeys.  Medrano is responsible to pay restitution in the amount of $6,357.24 for six deer and four turkeys.

Lowers agreement includes a lifetime ban from hunting on government land and to pay restitution to LDWF in the amount of $524.54 for one deer.

Agents seized two 30-30 caliber rifles, a .223 caliber rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun, one skinning gambrel and hoist, one 9-point buck deer rack and cape, four turkey gobbler beards, and one turkey leg spur in connection with the case.

LDWF Lt. Bill Tyree initiated and led the investigation and was assisted by Sgt. Curt Belton, Sgt. Joe Dewil, Senior Agent Ronnie Robertson, Specialist Lynn Bennett, and Fort Polk Game Wardens J.E. Haymon and Elton Herring and Stanley Wellman assisted in the case.

For more information, contact Capt. Peter Oliver at 318-487-5634 or poliver@wlf.la.gov.

2010-E38