A $1.6 million fine — the largest for a wildlife crime in U.S. history — was ordered in an Ohio whitetail deer trafficking case, according to media reports.
The Columbus Dispatch reported on Wednesday that Benjamin N. Chason, 61, of Climax, Ga., was sentenced for violations of the Lacey Act, a conservation law prohibiting the sale of illegally taken wildlife.
The fine, which has already been paid, is the largest ever in a wildlife case, according to U.S. Attorney Carter M. Stewart’s office, the newspaper reports.
Court documents show co-defendant Donald W. Wainwright Sr. of Logan County trafficked in live white-tail deer for hunts. Wainwright owned hunting preserves in Ohio and Florida, the newspaper reports.
Wainwright “illegally shipped deer to Florida from Ohio and attempted to ship deer to Georgia from Ohio. The herds involved with these shipments were not certified to be free from chronic wasting disease, tuberculosis and brucellosis. Federal law requires interstate shipments of deer to be certified disease-free; because the deer in the present case were not certified as disease-free, herds (both captive and wild) in Florida were potentially exposed to these diseases,” court records show, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
Officials uncovered the scheme after a shipment of deer was stopped on Interstate 71 heading out of Ohio, the newspaper reports.
“Illegal sale and transport of white-tailed deer are serious crimes, and I appreciate the teamwork and cooperation between all of the agencies involved to help obtain these convictions,” Scott Zody, Division of Wildlife chief for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, told the newspaper.
Chason pleaded guilty on May 1, 2014. He was sentenced to three years of probation and four months of home confinement. Wainwright Sr. pleaded guilty on Feb. 27, 2015, to 12 Lacey Act violations and was sentenced to 21 months in prison, plus a $125,000 fine and 200 hours of community service in parks, the newspaper reports.