Sunday, February 5th, 2023
Sunday, February 5th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

150 dead deer, 11 convicted in poaching cases

By Mike
Moore
Editor

Xenia, Ohio — On the eve of another deer hunting season,
wildlife officers and investigators in southwest Ohio made one of
the state’s biggest poaching arrests in history.

In all, 11 people were charged from a year-long investigation in
two separate cases that involved the illegal shooting of 150 deer
and other animals, according to the DNR Division of Wildlife.

Investigators dubbed the two cases, which began through tips
from citizens, “Operation Tenderloin” and “Operation Velvet.”

“As far as the numbers of deer, it’s the largest in District 5
(southwest Ohio) and quite possibly the largest in the history of
the state,” said Tim Schlater, a DNR wildlife field supervisor in
Xenia, Ohio. “Both of them were initiated by citizen complaints,
but obviously they snowballed into something even bigger than we
could have imagined.”

The one thing that ties the cases together, wildlife
investigators say, is blood sport. There is no evidence that the
perpetrators prospered financially from their crimes, said
Schlater. The illegal deer killings took place for venison
tenderloins in one case and velvet antlers in the other.

“In both cases, we did not find any evidence where meat or
antlers were being sold for profit,” the wildlife investigator
said. “They were strictly killing for bragging rights or personal
trophies. In Operation Tenderloin, they were killing for the
meat.”

Many of the deer, wildlife officials say, were shot at night
with the perpetrators using spotlights and rifles. In Operation
Velvet, the deer where shot during the summer while the bucks were
still wearing velvet on their antlers. Ducks were killed with
rifles in the spring so they would still be adorned in their
breeding plumage. Wild turkeys were killed over bait during the
closed season.

The poaching crimes took place in Hamilton, Butler, Clermont,
and Brown counties in southwest Ohio as well as in Indiana, and
were investigated by 20 agents from the Division of Wildlife.

“Poaching Ohio’s wildlife takes wildlife away from honest
people, creates a dangerous situation, and is against the ethics of
hunting,” said David Brown, DNR wildlife law enforcement supervisor
in Xenia.

Operation Velvet

A tip from a concerned citizen about a Butler County man taking
more than his legal limit of mourning doves last year touched off
Operation Velvet, wildlife officials say. From that point,
investigators determined that the dove hunter, Shawn Harris, 26, of
Fairfield, and three other individuals poached more than 50 deer in
Butler and Hamilton counties from August to November last year.

An undercover officer arranged to hunt doves with Harris after
the citizen’s tip, Schlater said. During that trip, Harris admitted
to poaching violations and the probe deepened from there. Harris,
whom investigators say was the ringleader of Operation Tenderloin,
was also a taxidermist.

“The illegal deer killed by the group were funneled to (Harris)
and he mounted them,” Schlater said.

In March 2005, members of the same group shot mergansers,
mallards, wood ducks, teal, scaup, coots, and wild turkeys on a
private farm in Butler County. Some of the waterfowl were shot with
rifles with the shooters driving down the road looking for creeks
and potholes that held ducks, Schlater said.

“They wanted to get these very colorful, migrating ducks so they
could get them mounted,” Schlater said. “They were going out
waterfowl hunting in March, using dogs and decoys and everything
just like you would in November.”

Others involved, wildlife investigators say, included Joseph L.
Lewis, 18, and David Scott Lewis, 36, both of Hooven; and Michael
D. Harris, 19, of Okeana. In all, the four were convicted of a
total of 21 wildlife violations, including shooting deer,
waterfowl, and turkeys during the closed season, and shooting deer
and waterfowl with a rifle. Fines totaled $3,890 and the group was
ordered to forfeit 32 sets of deer antlers and eight buck mounts. A
crossbow, two rifles, and a shotgun used in the crimes also were
forfeited.

Operation Tenderloin

The investigation began routinely enough in November 2005 with a
citizen’s complaint about an untagged deer in a Clermont County
backyard. After a search warrant was issued, the two suspects who
were contacted at the Amelia residence, Keith D. Fille, 19, and
Francis M. Fille, 22, admitted that they and five other people shot
80 to 100 deer from July to November. Their prized quarry was the
venison tenderloin, which investigators say the poachers carved out
of the animals, leaving the carcasses to rot.

A large number of the deer were killed at night using
spotlights, shotguns, and rifles in Brown and Clermont counties.
The suspects told investigators they used hand-held radios and two
vehicles to avoid detection by law enforcement. The deer carcasses
were dumped in a remote area.

Others charged in Operation Tenderloin included Jonathan M.
Arnold, 19, and William Adam Craver, 22, both of Batavia; Elam I.
Atkins, 29, of Williamsburg; and Guy L. Davis, 22, and Chad
Glinsky, age unknown, each of Sloatsburg, N.Y. The seven were
convicted of a total of 127 wildlife violations, including
spotlighting deer, taking deer out of season, hunting deer with a
rifle, and possession of illegally harvested deer. The case
resulted in more than $15,480 in fines, each received hunting
license suspensions of varying lengths, and forfeited 12 firearms
used in the crimes. Multiple deer mounts and antlers also were
confiscated during the investigation.

Undercover work also played a part in Operation Tenderloin,
according to investigators. An officer arranged to hunt with Davis
during last year’s deer gun season and was with the New York man
when he killed a 10-point buck with a 25-06 rifle from an
automobile.

In each case, the suspects were not habitual wildlife offenders
that had been on anyone’s watch list prior to the investigations,
Schlater said.

“These were not guys who were on our radar screen that we were
keeping an eye on,” he said. “They may have had some minor prior
(violations), but I’m not even sure of that.”

There was one common thread in the end, according to
Schlater.

“There never seemed to be any remorse whatsoever for what they
were doing,” he said.

The charges and penalties in detail:

Operation Velvet

  • Shawn M. Harris, Fairfield, charged with eight wildlife
    violations, sentenced to pay $1,180 in fines, forfeited items
    including mounts and a rifle obtained during a search warrant, and
    received a three-year hunting license suspension.
  • Michael Harris, Okeana, charged with one wildlife violation,
    paid $100 in fines and court costs, and forfeited one set of deer
    antlers.
  • David Scott Lewis, Hooven, charged with 10 violations, ordered
    to pay $1,840 in fines, forfeited 23 sets of deer antlers and a
    .270 rifle, and received a hunting license suspension of two
    years.
  • Joseph Lewis, Hooven, charged with two violations, sentenced to
    pay $770 in fines, forfeited a crossbow and a shotgun, and received
    a three-year hunting license suspension.

Operation Tenderloin

  • Francis Fille and Keith Fille, Amelia, each charged with 20
    wildlife violations, each received a fine of $981, forfeited two
    shotguns and two rifles used in the crimes, and each received a
    10-year hunting license suspension.
  • Jonathan Arnold, Batavia, charged with 33 violations, paid
    $3,827 in fines, forfeited six rifles and 11 sets of deer antlers,
    and received a seven-year hunting license suspension.
  • Elam Atkins, Batavia, charged with 20 violations, paid $3,681
    in fines, and lost his hunting privileges for seven years.
  • Adam Craver, Batavia, charged with 23 violations, paid $3,761
    in fines, forfeited a 16-point deer mount and several sets of deer
    antlers, and received a 10-year hunting license suspension.
  • Guy Davis, Sloatsburg, N.Y., charged with 11 violations, paid
    $2,449 in fines, forfeited a rifle, a camera, a video recorder,
    deer antlers, drugs, and drug paraphernalia, and received a hunting
    license suspension of 10 years.
  • Chad Glinsky, Sloatsburg, N.Y., paid a $4,100 fine for a
    federal Lacey Act violation for transporting five illegally
    harvested deer across state lines.

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