New York Cuffs & Collars – May 31st, 2013
Trapper gets snared
On Jan. 5 ECO, Kurt Swan received a complaint of illegal trapping taking place in the town of Bethlehem. Swan was on leave so he contacted ECO Kurt Bush, who was working in the field at the time. Bush arrived at the location to meet with the complainant and investigated the illegally set traps. Bush walked into a swamp area and found a snare trap set up with a small amount of bait dangling from a piece of wire. Next to the trap were a foot-hold trap set and a camera on the adjacent tree. Bush took down the setup and continued down the trail finding, four more similar setups. At the last location Bush found that a deer had been taken by a snare, and new traps had been set up around the deer. Bush removed all of the traps and left his business card at each site. He and the complainant continued to check the area for more illegal traps. Multiple trails led to a dead-end road with a house at the end. Bush interviewed the homeowner, who knew the trapper but did not know where he lived. The following day, Bush was contacted by the trapper, who admitted to setting all of the snares and catching the deer as well as a few bobcats. Bush met with the man and issued him tickets for trapping with the use of snares and taking a deer out of season.
Deer Management Focus Area violations (Tompkins County)
During the Deer Management Focus Area (DMFA) January season held in areas of Tompkins County, ECO Stanley Winnick received a call from state police Sgt. Kopcho regarding a white-tailed deer hanging from a porch on Cass Hill Road in the town of Candor, Tioga County. Kopcho was at the location because there had been a fire at the residence. The next day Winnick, along with ECO Osman Eisenberg, patrolled to the location and met with the homeowner. He told the officers that he had shot the deer during the special DMFA season in Tompkins County. Eisenberg asked the subject to show the officers exactly where he had shot the deer. The man agreed and had the officers follow him to the location where he had shot the deer. The location where the deer was killed was clearly outside the DMFA and the individual was issued the appropriate tickets for taking the deer outside of the DMFA.
Unlawful license sale
In early January, ECO Mark Colesante completed a lengthy investigation when the Walmart on Grant Avenue in Auburn signed a consent order and paid $500 for knowingly selling a hunting license to an applicant without the applicant being present. The investigation started when Colesante was tipped off that a local hunter had purchased his 94-year-old father’s hunting license and tags from the Auburn Walmart while the hunter’s father was in Florida. Colesante interviewed the man at his home in the town of Niles, where he admitted to purchasing his father’s license and using his tags at his hunting camp in Cortland County. Colesante issued the man two tickets for making a false statement when applying for a license (an unclassified misdemeanor) and purchasing more than one big game license (a violation). The man signed a civil compromise and paid a civil penalty of $300 in Auburn City Court.
The Oswego County 7
On Jan. 28, seven Oswego County residents were scheduled to appear in court to answer charges after ECO Anthony Panipinto concluded a three-month long investigation that led to their arrest for various acts related to the illegal taking of deer in the town of West Monroe. The 10 criminal incidents spanned a week in early October of 2012. Panipinto began investigating the various tips that were provided to him by members of the local community. The concerned citizens reported many late-night gunshots and deer killed and left on the roadside. The officer was able to determine that five deer were killed and an additional six were attempted to have been killed. All of the acts occurred after dark and during the closed firearms season. The consistent method used by these poachers was to drive their vehicle along the rural roads in search of deer, utilizing either a spotlight or their vehicles’ headlights. When a deer was found standing near the roadside, a shooter would use a shotgun, either loaded with slugs or buckshot, to shoot at the deer. This was all done while the shooter was seated inside the vehicle, stopped on the pavement of the public highway. Of the 10 known shootings, nine were within 500 feet of occupied houses. After confiscating over 200 pounds of venison, two shotguns and a spotlight, Panipinto charged the seven with a total of 120 misdemeanors and 11 violations. All charges were pending in the town of West Monroe Court.
Illegal deer charges
In January, ECO Todd Smith concluded an investigation that began last November with an anonymous tip about an untagged deer hanging in a tree at an apartment complex in Williamson. The deer was reportedly taken by a Marion resident. Further investigation revealed that he shot an antlerless “button buck” in WMU 8J outside of Newark, but was never issued or possessed a DMP tag for WMU 8J. The deer was subsequently tagged unlawfully with a DMP for WMU 8F. The individual was issued an appearance ticket for the unlawful taking of an antlerless deer. Charges were pending in the town of Arcadia Town Court.
Deer ice rescue
On Jan.17 ECO R.J. Ward was informed of a deer that had gone through the ice of a pond in the village of Silver Springs. Ward responded to the pond and saw only a portion of the large pond was frozen. He saw several ducks swimming in the open water, but no deer. It was only after looking through binoculars at what looked like, to the naked eye, a goose attempting to take off, that there was a deer that had fallen through the ice and was attempting to swim to the opposite side of the pond. Ward advised a Wyoming County dispatcher of the situation and asked them to advise the Silver Springs Fire Department. Ward was aware that the department has an ice rescue squad that regularly trains on nearby Silver Lake. Both the Silver Springs and Castile rescue squads responded and decided that a rescue of the deer was possible. Two individuals dressed in dry suits entered the pond, breaking a path through the ice for the deer to escape. They then directed the deer to shore. However, when the deer made it to shore, it didn’t have enough strength to climb out of the pond. Rescue personnel assisted the deer out of the water and carried it to a location away from the pond and began drying the animal with several blankets. As the deer was dried and warmed, its condition was visibly improving. The deer was eventually left to face a night of sub-freezing temperatures with the blankets covering it, since was still unable to walk. The next morning Ward returned to the location of the deer. He found freshly fallen snow on the two blankets, but no deer. It had regained enough strength to leave the area.
Water quality violation
On Jan. 30, ECO Toni Dragotta received a complaint that there were problems with a logging job on Vanderhoff and Johnson Hollow roads in the Town of Catlin. Once the site was located, Dragotta observed sediment-laden water flowing from a logging road into the stream that runs along the road. There were a few hay bales placed, but the sediment-laden water was flowing around the bales. There were no erosion control measures in place where the logging road crossed the stream. Following downstream approximately four miles to the point where the stream enters Catharine Creek in the village of Millport, the turbid water was entering Catharine Creek, the main tributary on the south end of Seneca Lake. The logging company was contacted and informed of the violations. Dragotta met a company representative the next day and observed that they had placed additional hay bales and filter fabric to prevent the sediment-laden water from entering the stream. However, the hay bales had only diverted the water to a new location, where it was still discharging dirty water to the stream. The company then dug two retention ponds to collect the water so the sediment could settle out before the water was discharged to the stream. The company is going to construct a new log landing at a more level location and agreed to settle the water quality violation by consent order in the amount of $350.
Water quality enforcement
On Dec. 7, 2012, ECO Mike Terrell was dispatched to Mill Creek in the village of Cobleskill by Region 4 dispatch. A complaint was made to the Division of Water staff and the case was referred to Division of Law Enforcement. Upon investigation, the ECO determined that the construction crew did have a permit for the job, but failed to comply with the conditions of the permit. The permit required a diversion, or pump-around, which the company failed to do. The owner of the company stated they thought they could get away with an earthen dam but it crumbled, causing severe turbidity. Terrell issued two citations returnable in Cobleskill town court.
In December 2012, ECO Alan Brassard responded to a significant oil spill in Staten Island. Upon initial investigation it was determined that a barge out of Boston was transferring oil to another vessel at May Ship Repair, located on the north side of Staten Island on the Kill Van Kull. This waterbody separates New York from New Jersey. Initial reports indicated over 15,000 gallons were released into the water from the barge due to a hole in the hull. The U.S. Coast Guard and DEC responded to the spill and contractors were obtained to begin the cleanup operation. An ongoing investigation of this spill is being conducted by Law Enforcement’s Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigation and Coast Guard investigators.
DEC’s Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigations received a complaint that a flexographic label printing company located in Deer Park was disposing a large volume of liquid ink waste into its eight-yard dumpster. ECI Gerry Carpenter, under the supervision of Lt. Frank Lapinski, began to investigate the complaint, conducting a number of surveillances of the generator. On April 5, 2012, on a midnight and morning surveillance, investigators learned that the dumpster, full with ink waste, was removed by the contract hauler destined for incineration at the Covanta Resource Recovery Facility in West Babylon. Investigators located the transport vehicle and obtained written consent to search and sample the vehicle. Assisted by Region 1 ECOs, the transporting truck was secured until samplers could arrive. The load was then searched and sampled on the tipping floor. The detail then responded to Deer Park and discovered the eight-yard dumpster was again full with apparent ink waste from the facility. The owner was interviewed and agreed to a consent search, which uncovered additional pieces of evidence. After sample results returned from the DEC contract lab and after further investigation, a followup inspection was conducted. In December, 2012 the generator settled under an order on consent negotiated by the regional attorney for a number of violations, including the failure to use a licensed hauler and the failure to make a waste determination. The owner agreed to pay a $6,000 penalty, restitution to DEC for the $872.78 sampling costs and agreed to make arrangement for the proper removal of the remaining industrial waste, which was being held at the contract lab.
Illegal sewage discharge
As a result of an ongoing investigation, a search warrant was executed at a residence in Leeds. The residence, a multi-family rental property, is owned by a Westchester County man. He was observed on numerous occasions pumping the septic tank for the residence into the basement of the adjacent building (which he also owns); that building is connected to the storm water sewer line running in front of the building. The storm sewer then empties into the nearby Catskill Creek. Dye tests were conducted during the warrant, indicating that the sewage discharge was running directly into the creek. The suspect was arraigned in the town of Catskill Court on one count of illegal sewage discharge, a Class E felony. He pleaded not guilty, with bail set at $50,000 cash or $100,000 bond. The case was prosecuted by the Greene County District Attorney’s Office and on Jan. 10 the subject pleaded guilty in Catskill town court to one count, a misdemeanor for the use of a point source discharging into the water of state without a permit, and was fined $15,000. This case generated accolades from the local community, many of whom use the Catskill Creek for recreation.
Snapping turtle for sale
On Dec. 11, 2012, ECO Timothy Machnica located an individual attempting to sell a pet snapping turtle online for $75. Machnica exchanged multiple emails inquiring on the purchase of the turtle. On Dec. 13 Machnica met the seller, who had possession of the turtle in a Queens apartment. The ECO then identified himself as a DEC officer, confiscated the turtle and issued a summons to the defendant for Illegal sale of protected wildlife. During the interview of the defendant it was determined that the snapping turtle was poached illegally from the wild. Machnica and ECO Christopher Lattimer transported the snapping turtle to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.
On Jan. 5, ECO Jeremy Eastwood took a college intern for a ride-along, checking goose hunters for compliance with state hunting regulations. In Mattituck, they observed eight goose hunters from a distance for about an hour, during which time two geese were taken. While the subjects were retrieving the second goose, the officer and the intern went out in the field to check the group of hunters. Of the eight hunters checked, including a former hunting guide, four of the hunters did not possess a license to hunt small game, five of them had no HIP number, and one did not have a duck stamp. In all, 10 tickets were issued.
Lost and found
In early January, Officer Brian Gillis received a call from a resident of the town of Shandaken. The caller stated that her dog had brought home a set of antlers and was not sure what to do with it. Gillis responded and found the 10-point antlers had apparently been a tagged at some point, but there was a now empty zip tie around the base of one of the antlers. Gillis took possession of the antlers and checked around to see if anyone had reported them stolen or lost. A few days later, Gillis stopped in to Gander Mountain and saw a flier posted with a photo of the antlers. He contacted the person who posted it, and after receiving an emailed photo to confirm, Gillis had located the rightful owner of the antlers. The successful hunter was elated to have his trophy recovered.
Snow doesn’t lie
On the night of Jan. 8, ECO Rob Higgins received information that a deer had been killed out of season. The anonymous complainant stated that the deer was killed two days prior and that there was a blood trail leading right to the suspect’s house. Higgins arrived early the next morning along with ECO Mark Klein to investigate the allegations. The ECOs put on snowshoes and hiked back into the woods to try and pick up the blood trail. Finding the blood trail was easy against the white snow and the ECOs spent time collecting blood, hair and tissue samples from the scene. The ECOs determined where the deer was shot and also where the deer was gutted. They then followed the drag marks and blood trail right out to the suspect’s house. When the suspect opened the door, Higgins told him that it was obvious that he had killed a deer and dragged it in to this house because the snow doesn’t lie. The suspect confessed to the crime of taking a doe out of season and was issued a ticket for taking big game out of season. The illegal deer meat was also confiscated and the case was pending in the town of Day Criminal Court.