“That initial phone call from the public was crucial,” said the conservation officer who led the investigation. “That’s what started the entire investigation.”
Boise, Idaho – Five men from southwest Idaho have been charged 50 Violations of Wildlife As a result of a fishing accident in 2021, it resulted in fines of over $21,000, 15 years in license revocation, 34 years of probation, 330 community hours and a murder confiscation.
An investigation by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG), which first began in 2021, has led to charges being filed in six different counties in Idaho where crimes including trespassing, malicious property injury, and wrongful seizure occurred. Legal, spearfishing violations, hunting. Turkeys with electronic calls, as well as multiple violations of deer hunting and antlers.
The men accumulated additional penalties in more counties through August 2022, including Custer County.
Penalties were recently issued in several counties, including the August 2022 in Custer County, for five wildlife violators including:
Convict Todd A. Phillips, of Frutland, was charged with five of the original 13 counts. Seven were dismissed as part of a plea agreement. Phillips received $6,900 in fines, 12 years of probation, 12-year hunting license revocation (seven of which are pending pending future violations), 100 hours of community service in lieu of imprisonment, and 2020 and 2021 forfeiture.
Philips also pleaded guilty to a Payette County turkey poaching violation, receiving a $350 fine, and forfeiting a $1,000 bond for deer hunting violations in Adams County. As part of judgment and testing, Philips cannot have any weapon in which hunting activities may take place, including bows, air rifles, crossbows, or firearms.
Darren Phillips, of Frutland, was convicted on five of the original seven counts, with two dismissed as part of a plea agreement. He received $6,300 in fines, ten years of probation, a ten-year hunting license revocation (five of which are pending pending probation violations) and 100 hours of community service in lieu of imprisonment.
Braeden T. Phillips, of Payette, was convicted of three counts. He received $3,970 in fines, six years of probation, a nine-year hunting license revocation (six years suspended pending his probation violation), and 60 hours of community service in lieu of imprisonment. Philips’ pronghorn was also confiscated in 2021 and had to pay a $400 forfeiture bond in Kootenai County for two spearfishing violations.
Jacob Phillips, of Frutland, was convicted on two of the original six charges, with four charges dismissed as part of a plea agreement. He received a $990 fine, four years of probation, the revocation of a five-year fishing license, and 50 hours of community service in lieu of imprisonment. Since Jacob was under 21 at the time of the accident, his hunting privileges can be reinstated after one year if he completes a hunting education course. Jacob also pleaded guilty to one count in Payette County, and received a $400 fine.
Jeff Musso, of Parma, was convicted on one of the original four counts, with three of the charges dismissed as part of a plea agreement. He received $1,665 in fines, two years of probation, a three-year license suspension (two years suspended pending probation violation) and 20 hours of community service in lieu of imprisonment.
IDFG received a phone call during the 2021 antler season reporting a group trespassing in Bahsimiroy Valley. That initial call led to an extensive investigation that resulted in charges being brought against the aforementioned men.
“That initial phone call from the public was crucial,” said Chad Webberman, the fish and game conservation official who led the investigation. “That’s what started the entire investigation.”
The suspects were already gone by the time Webberman arrived at the scene, but evidence left behind showed traces of vehicle trails across a field of clover, which ended in a small pool of blood and hair.
According to Wippermann, it looked as if someone had shot a fork in the field and loaded it into their car without first dressing it. While the thistles shooting season was in progress at that time, the landowner had not given permission for anyone to hunt in his land.
The IDF interviewed fishermen in the area and were able to obtain a description of the vehicle, which led investigators to Payet where the suspects live. Two days later, Webberman was told of a car vandalism in Bahsimiroy Valley, in which a thorn had been thrown to the hood of the vehicle, leaving blood, hair, and numerous scratches behind.
After multiple interviews with suspects in Frutland, Payet and Parma, investigators learned of further violations as well as trespassing. There was evidence of Notch being chased by a car and shooting out of windows by bows and a rifle.
There have been other violations as well, such as killing of waterfowl and game birds in the highlands during closed season, killing of protected species, hunting during closed seasons or at night, hunting without tags or licenses, as well as vehicle vandalism in Bahsimiroy Valley, in Custer County. .
“The investigation revealed an appalling number of fish and bird violations,” Webberman said.
While the penalties may seem significant, prosecuting lawbreakers often remains a challenge. According to Wippermann, it is common for investigations of wildlife violations to span several years undetected, due to Idaho’s short statute of limitations.
“We discovered several other violations during this investigation, but were unable to charge due to the statute of limitations on species other than large game,” Webberman said.
However, Idaho is a member of the Wildlife Infringement Convention, which means that if a person’s hunting, hunting, or fishing license is revoked by any of the 49 member states, all remaining states will revoke the same license or concession for the same period of time .
The IDFG said this case is a great example of how the public can play a vital role in helping to solve wildlife crime. Anyone with information regarding wildlife crime is encouraged to “call” the Citizens Against Poaching (CAP) Hotline at 1-800-632-5999.
Callers can remain anonymous and sometimes qualify for a cash reward.
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