NY: Cuffs and Collars Issue: 5

Northern District Highlights

City of Oswego charged

(Oswego County)

In July 2010 a group of fishermen contacted the Syracuse regional
office to report the presence of what looked like toilet paper and
other septic material being discharged into the Oswego River near a
popular fishing spot in the City of Oswego. Region 7 Officer
Matthew Harger responded to the location of the complaint and
immediately observed a plume of septic material emitted from a pipe
which was concealed under a walkway along the river and spilled
directly into the Oswego River. When Harger interviewed the
complainant, the officer was surprised to discover that the
situation had been reported to the City of Oswego several times in
the past. Enough material was being discharged into the river that
the local fishermen had named the popular fishing spot the “toilet
paper hole.” After a lengthy investigation by Harger and Lt. James
Masuicca, it was determined that an old sewer line had been
compromised after years of erosion, which allowed septic material
to bypass the new system and flow directly into the Oswego River.
The City of Oswego Engineering Department sealed off the old sewer
line, which ended the discharge into the Oswego River. The
violations against the City of Oswego were handled through a
consent order which was settled in early December and resulted in a
$10,000 fine.

Penal Law convictions

(Oswego County)

Region 7 Investigator Karen Williams was assigned an investigation
into a timber theft in the Town of Palermo, Oswego County. The
landowner stated he was approached in early July 2008 by a local
logger who told him he was a representative of a local lumber buyer
and was interested in logging his property. The landowner, who does
not live on the property, informed the logger he would be
interested in performing a limited cutting on the property and also
wanted to clear out undesirable, damaged and diseased trees and
underbrush to improve the quality of the woodlot. The landowner and
logger agreed to meet to review a tentative contract. However, the
logger did not show up for the scheduled meeting. The landowner
then went to the local lumber buyer and informed them of the
logger’s proposal. He was informed that the logger sells to the
mill but did not represent the mill. The landowner told the buyer
he was going out of town for a few weeks and did not want anyone
cutting on his land until he returned. When he returned, the
landowner once again met with the logger to review a proposed
contract detailing what was to be done on the property. The logger
was to review the contract, make any changes and return to the
landowner for review prior to any logging. They agreed that at that
time they would walk the property together and mark the trees to be
cut. Again the logger did not return. Several days later the
landowner was notified by the neighbors they saw logging trucks
leaving the property with logs. He checked with the mill and was
told the logger had brought logs in from his property. Based on
Investigator Williams’ investigation, the logger was charged with
petit larceny, criminal mischief and the ECL misdemeanor of taking
the trees of another. The logger was found guilty after a jury
trial of the misdemeanor charges of fourth-degree criminal mischief
and taking trees of another. He was fined $1,000 for the criminal
mischief charge and $1,000 for the ECL citation, and was also
ordered to restitution of $8,000.

Illegal taking of a deer

(Washington County)

On Nov. 7, 2010 Region 5 ECO Jeff Dempster received a call from a
complainant in Kingsbury, N.Y., that the night before at about 6:15
p.m. she heard a gunshot very near her home. She saw a man with a
rifle standing approximately 150 feet from her home, who responded
that he had just fired a shot but that he did not hit anything. She
then demanded to see his hunting license, which he showed her. On
the morning of the Nov. 7, Dempster located an area of blood about
where the individual said he was standing and a blood trail leading
to and across Underwood Road to the far shoulder of the road. Near
where the blood trail ended were fresh shoe prints and a single
Winchester 270 shell casing, the same type of ammo the man later
said was what he was hunting with. Later that day, Dempster and ECO
Steve Stubing, with the assistance of DECALS and the South Glens
Falls Police Department, located the man, who admitted to shooting
from the shoulder of the road and at about 150 feet from the
complainant’s home. He was reluctant to admit that he took a deer
until told by the officers of the blood trail. The officers seized
the deer and took it to the Venison Donation Program in Fort Ann.
The man was charged with three misdemeanors: discharging a firearm
within 500 feet of a dwelling, discharging a firearm from a highway
and taking a deer with antlers less than three inches, along with a
violation of hunting big game after hours.

Buck taken near home

(Essex County)

On Nov. 7, 2010, Region 5 ECO Michael Phelps responded to a
complaint of discharge of a firearm within 500 feet of a residence.
The property owner showed him pictures of an 8-point buck that had
crossed her lawn at about 7:30 a.m. that morning. While inside she
heard a loud rifle crack and went outside and witnessed a man leave
his pickup truck, walk into the woods and bring a buck back to his
truck. She wrote down the license plate number. Phelps followed the
blood trail on bare ground to a pool of blood on the opposite side
of the brook, a distance of approximately 230 feet from her home.
The officer drove to the residence of a Lake Placid man and located
an 8-point buck in the back of a pickup that matched the
description given. The man admitted to taking the buck from 30
yards away for a total of 310 feet from the complainant’s
residence. Based on the investigation, he was issued an appearance
ticket for discharging a firearm within 500 feet of an occupied
dwelling.

Convicted felon takes deer

at Saratoga National Battleground

(Saratoga County)

On Nov. 28, 2010, Region 5 ECOs Mark Klein and Jeff Dempster
received a call that a hunter had been seen entering the Saratoga
National Battleground. The ECOs knew there was no hunting permitted
on the national park property and responded. When the ECOs arrived,
they were met by a New York State trooper, a town police officer
and a National Park ranger who had also received the call. All
agencies conducted a search for the hunter, who was eventually
located. After an extensive interview, the hunter admitted to the
ECOs he shot a deer from the road the prior day and had returned to
recover the carcass. It was also discovered that the hunter failed
to purchase a hunting license, and that he was a convicted felon.
At the time of arrest, Dempster conducted a search of the hunter
and retrieved marijuana. With the assistance of a K-9 Unit, the
deer was located and the hunter’s gun was seized. In the end, the
hunter was charged with discharging a firearm from a road, hunter
trespass and hunting without a license. The other law enforcement
agencies also charged the hunter with unlawful possession of a
firearm and unlawful possession of marijuana.

Trapper violates probation

(Essex County)

Region 5 ECO George LaPoint responded to Essex County to help ECO
Matt LaCroix locate illegally set traps in the Town of Schroon. The
ECOs located multiple traps set by an individual who had previously
been issued tickets this year by LaCroix for trapping without a
license, illegally taking protected wildlife and untagged traps.
The discovery of additional traps resulted in LaPoint issuing the
man “UT-50s” for again trapping without a license, failure to place
a baited conibear trap at least four feet above the ground and
violating the regulations pertaining to using a baited conibear
trap in an enclosure. Conviction of any of the charges will impact
the man’s probation, which forbids him to violate any New York
state law.

“Facebook” postings

lead to arrest

(Cayuga County)

In mid-November 2010, Region 7 ECO Mark Colesante received a
complaint about a bowhunter in the Town of Niles who had already
taken two large bucks with his bow. The young man had posted photos
of himself posing with an 8-point buck and then a 12-point buck on
the popular Internet social network Facebook. He posted that he had
shot both “swamp donkeys,” and that there was no limit on deer
where he lives. Armed with the photos and postings from his
Facebook page, Colesante and ECO Scott Sincebaugh followed him home
from work on Nov. 18, 2010. Colesante interviewed the subject, and
within minutes he admitted to killing two bucks. In a written
statement he explained how he killed the 8-point buck early in the
season and put his bow/muzzleloader either sex tag on it but he
didn’t fill it out. Later on in the bow season, he killed a
12-point buck and used the same tag that was on the 8-point buck.
He also admitted to shooting a doe and putting his brother’s doe
tag on it. However, neither of them had been issued any doe
permits. After seizing the cape and rack of the large 12-point buck
from his freezer, the ECOs issued him tickets for taking more than
one buck during bow season, taking a doe without a permit, failure
to tag properly, and failure to report a deer harvest. The case was
solved without having to mention the word Facebook.

Hunting-related shooting

(Steuben County)

Early on the morning of Nov. 26, Region 8 ECO Ed Stull, along with
Lt. Peter Barton and ECO Tom Flaitz, met the state police and
members of a hunting party at the St. James Mercy Hospital in
Hornell with regard to a hunting-related shooting that occurred in
the Town of Troupsburg.

After the victim was treated and information and voluntary
statements were taken, the investigation moved to the hunting
location in the Town of Troupsburg, southeast of the Village of
Greenwood. Six hunters were engaged in a deer drive, with four
driving and two on watch. The shooter watched as the victim got
ahead of the other drivers and got to the end of the drive at an
ATV/logging trail. The shooter then saw and was advised by radio
that several deer were approaching the location where the eventual
victim was stopped on the trail. The deer spotted the victim and
ran up the hill directly to the shooter. The shooter shot the
closest deer, a doe (about 50 feet away) and immediately heard the
victim call out that he had been shot. Several of the hunters took
the victim to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with several
broken bones and a small cut to his right hand. During the
investigation it was determined the shot taken was in a safe
direction, but the bullet deflected off the spine in the neck of
the deer and then deflected again off a small maple tree before
hitting the victim. Two additional critical elements were
discovered during the investigation. The victim was visiting from
Florida and did not have a hunting license. Although he was not
carrying a firearm, he should not have been actively participating
in the deer drive. Additionally, it was discovered that although
the shooter had two DMP tags, neither were for Unit 8X where he was
hunting. Several members of the hunting party had 8X DMP deer tags,
but none had been consigned to the shooter. He was arrested for the
illegal killing of an antlerless deer. A license revocation hearing
will be conducted when the criminal case is closed if it is deemed
appropriate when the investigation is concluded.

Illegal buck taken with crossbow

(Chautauqua County)

On Nov. 9, 2010, Region 9 ECO Chris Freeman received an anonymous
complaint that a man was in the process of hanging an 8-point buck
he had shot with a crossbow. Freeman arrived at and interviewed the
individual, who stated that he was not a hunter and gave the ECO
consent to search the property, including the garage. After coming
up with no evidence of the alleged activity, the man said, “You
see, I have nothing to hide.” Noting that there were two mailboxes
at the end of the man’s drive with a split in the driveway, Freeman
asked the individual who the other residence was occupied by. After
pausing a bit, he stated that his son resided at that address. At
that point, the man stated that he did have knowledge that his son
shot a buck earlier that night, and he was just trying to protect
his son. After a brief interrogation, the son confessed that he had
shot an 8-point buck with a crossbow on his property. When asked to
provide a hunting license, he could not. He explained that he just
did not bother to get one this year, figuring he would not be
bothered on his own property, or “kingdom,” as he put it. The son
provided Freeman with a voluntary statement of the incident. The
Excalibur crossbow and the deer were seized. The case was pending
in the Town of Cherry Creek court.

Art of misdirection fails

(Chautauqua County)

On Nov. 27, 2010, Region 9 ECO Jerry Kinney located a 9A DMP on an
antlerless deer at a local deer processor. The tag stated it was
taken in Ransomville, Niagara County. A DECALS check revealed the
hunter lived nearby in Fredonia, Chautauqua County. The hunter
stated he hunted at a nearby lease and then in Niagara County.
Kinney asked the hunter for all his tags and license. During the
conversation, Kinney noticed fresh blood in the snow on the
driveway. Looking into the half-open garage door, Kinney observed
another antlerless deer with a tag stating it was taken in 9F Elma,
Erie County. The hunter finally realized there was no more hiding
and admitted to shooting both deer in DMU 9K. The hunter was cited
for two counts of taking an illegal deer and taking a deer outside
of a DMU, all returnable to the Town of Arkwright Court.

Backyard deer poaching

(Erie County)

Region 9 ECO Chuck Wilson investigated a complaint that a West
Seneca area man had shot four deer from a window of his residence,
in a baited part of his back yard. The area is closed to deer
hunting in New York state. Wilson’s interview, observations and
execution of a consent-to-search disclosed that the man had been
baiting deer into his backyard using corn placed 17 yards from a
window. He admitted to shooting and wounding a buck that evening
using his bow around 5:45 p.m. He also admitted to shooting the
deer from his kitchen window while the deer was feeding on a corn
pile. That deer was not recovered.

A spike buck carcass was found in the garage, along with the racks
of two other deer. The man admitted to shooting the spike buck
about a week earlier, in similar fashion. He claimed the other
racks were from dead deer he had picked up along the road without
authorization to do so. Wilson issued numerous citations associated
with the man’s ongoing poaching, directing him to the Town of West
Seneca Court to answer the charges.

Felony criminal mischief at boat launch

(Essex County)

On November 19, 2010, Ticonderoga Police alerted Region 5 ECO Matt
LaCroix of criminal mischief at the DEC boat launch on Lake
Champlain. Apparently, an individual went to the boat launch and
ran over two large spruce trees, a poplar tree and tore up the
grass by spinning doughnuts with the tires of the vehicle. However,
the man who caused the damage did not realize that upon hitting the
spruce tree he tore the front license plate off his vehicle and
lodged it in the tree. LaCroix and Ticonderoga police tracked down
the vehicle to which the plate belonged. The vehicle was covered in
dirt, with a heavily damaged front end. After Ticonderoga police
and LaCroix conducted interviews, the man who caused the damage
admitted to driving to the boat launch and intentionally causing
damage to the property. He was arrested by LaCroix and charged with
felony criminal mischief, leaving the scene of a property damage
motor vehicle accident, criminal mischief of a DEC boat launch and
improper use of a DEC boat launch.

Southern District Highlights

Raw sewage discharge

(Kings County)

On Dec. 7, 2010, Lt. John Fitzpatrick and ECO Jennifer Okonuk, with
the help of ECOs Matthew Baker and Neil Stevens, arrested four
individuals and also charged four corporations with several
offenses related to discharging raw sewage and restaurant grease
into Shell Bank Creek. One individual was also charged with
obstructing governmental administration. The investigation started
in 2009 when ECOs noticed a foul fecal smell in the air and a brown
milky sheen on the water’s surface. Further investigation revealed
that several businesses in the area had been cited by the NYC
Department of Environmental Protection for discharging raw sewage
into the creek, leading back to 2003. A cooperative effort to
prosecute the case is being made between the Kings County District
Attorney, NYC Department of Environmental Protection and the DEC.
The individuals charged in this case face up to four years in
prison and both the individuals and the businesses face penalties
up to $75,000 per day for each documented discharge event. The
ultimate outcome of this investigation is to clean up the area and
ensure that mitigation efforts are taken to prevent anything like
this from happening in the future.

Illegal blackfish sale

(Kings County)

On Nov. 18, 2010, Marine Enforcement Unit Lt. Lopez contacted MEU
ECOs George Scheer and Kevin Thomas and instructed them to conduct
surveillance in the area of Sheepshead Bay, in hopes of finding a
known illegal blackfish dealer. After conducting surveillance on
the charter vessel for a period of time, it was beginning to look
like they were out of luck. Just then Lt. Lopez contacted them to
report that he had caught the individual with the illegal blackfish
at 8th Avenue Chinatown. The ECOs quickly responded to assist the
lieutenant on 8th Avenue while he interviewed the individual. The
individual was found to be in possession of 71 live blackfish in
the back of his van. The fish were being kept alive in 55-gallon
drums, with aeration being delivered via a small portable air pump.
After the evidence was documented and recorded, the ECOs informed
the man that he would be returning the live fish back to the waters
nearby. After the fish were returned to the waters, the unlicensed
dealer was issued a notice of violation for “illegal
commercialization,” possessing blackfish over the recreational
limit, possession of undersized blackfish and failure to possess a
valid food fish shippers and dealers license.

Uncertified shellfish

(Suffolk County)

On Nov. 24, 2010, Region 1 ECO Dustin Oliver called MEU ECO Sean
Reilly and Region 1 ECO Michael Unger for assistance with a clam
boat that was raking illegally in the Connetquot River. Unger and
Reilly launched the Zone 2 Whaler at Suffolk County Marine Bureau
while Oliver kept the clammers under surveillance. Reilly and Unger
entered the Connetquot River and sped up to the clam boat, ordering
the men not to dump anything overboard. The clam boat and its
occupants were escorted into a marina to the waiting Oliver, who
issued tickets to two men for taking clams from uncertified lands;
about 1,000 clams were taken from their boat and returned to the
water. One of the individuals cited has a previous five-year
revocation of his digger permit on his record with the DEC.

Felony lobsters follow-up

(Kings County)

On Sept. 29, 2010, Marine Enforcement Unit ECO Jamie Powers
received an anonymous call stating that a Brooklyn business was in
possession of undersized lobsters. Powers then called Region 2 ECOs
Shea Mathis, Neil Stevens and Matt Baker to respond and assist.
When the officers arrived they noticed that there were several
hundred lobsters to be measured. The officers then called Region 2
ECOs Matt Nichols and Alan Brassard for assistance. The officers
diligently measured, weighed and documented all of the lobsters in
the warehouse. When they were done, they had found a total of 713
undersized lobsters (less than 33⁄8-inch carapus). The total weight
was 749 pounds. The officers then took the seized lobsters to the
Bowery Mission, located in Manhattan, where they were donated. The
owner was charged with a felony for the illegal commercialization
of the 713 undersized lobsters.

Categories: Cuffs & Collars

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