Northeast meat processor charged in venison trade

By Mark Tuscano Contributing Writer

Minerva, Ohio — State undercover wildlife officers believe they
may have opened a Pandora’s box when they shut down a commercial
meat processing operation here Nov. 15.

Shortly after dawn that day, 14 wildlife officers supported by
the Columbiana County Sheriff’s Office converged on Pine Hill Meats
after a 13-month investigation into the operation and arrested the
owner, John Schneider, 57, and his wife Joanne, 51, on charges of
commercializing wildlife.

John Schneider is accused of providing a commercial market for
untagged white-tailed deer meat. State Wildlife Officer Reno “Jay”
Reda said John Schneider was reportedly known in the area to buy
deer meat then resell it for up to $15 per pound after
processing.

John Schneider was charged with five counts of buying deer meat
and two counts of possessing untagged deer parts, according to DNR
Division of Wildlife records. All are misdemeanors of the first
degree and each carries maximum penalties of a $1,000 fine and 180
days in jail.

Joanne Schneider was charged with three counts of selling deer
meat. Sale of deer meat is a misdemeanor of the third degree with a
maximum penalty of $500 and 60 days in jail. She was also charged
with records violations, a fourth-degree misdemeanor carrying a
fine of up to $250 and 30 days in jail.

Officers reportedly found 800 pounds of untagged deer meat in
the shop, but records from the operation could widely expand the
investigation once processed, Reda said.

The Schneiders pleaded not guilty and were released on $50,000
cash surety bond each following their initial court appearance in
Columbiana County.

Reda said Division of Wildlife investigators will be digging
into the years of sales records found at the processor’s shop. The
records could provide information leading to additional charges and
potentially connect other parties to the operation, he said.

“Once we start going through the records we’ll see how far it
spider webs out to see ultimately how many people are involved,”
said Reda.

According to a Division of Wildlife news release, the deer were
taken by both legal and illegal means and the Snyders were aware
this is a violation of Ohio wildlife laws.

“We believe the subjects have illegally profited from Ohio’s
wildlife and have given poachers an outlet to sell illegally taken
deer,” said Doug Miller, northeast Ohio law enforcement supervisor
with the Division of Wildlife.

“We could not have made this case or even initiated an
investigation without the help of legitimate hunters who called the
poacher hotline,” Reda said. “This is a case where the system works
exactly like it is supposed to. Based on additional information we
have received … there may have been many improprieties for many
years and hunters in the area have called to say they appreciated
that we were able to curtail the wildlife abuses in the area.”

John Schneider is scheduled to appear in Columbiana County Court
Dec. 11 for a pretrial hearing and Dec. 18 for a review hearing
with Judge Carol Ann Robb presiding. He has hired attorney William
B. Shetler of Alliance in the case.

Columbiana County Court records show Schneider pleaded no
contest to an unspecified wildlife violation March 15, 2001. He was
found guilty and sentenced to 30 days in jail, which was suspended.
He served 30 hours community service, paid a $250 fine, and was
placed on unsupervised probation for three years.

White-tailed deer are valued at $400 each for Division of
Wildlife purposes.

Ohioans can contact the Turn in a Poacher hotline toll free 24
hours per day at 1-800 POACHER or 1-800-762-2373. Calls regarding
wildlife violations can be placed anonymously.

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