New York Outdoor News Cuffs and Collars — Feb. 24, 2017
(Editor’s note: A criminal charge is merely an allegation that a defendant has committed a violation of the criminal law, and it is not evidence of guilt. All defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial, during which it will be the state of New York’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.)
On the night of Nov. 18, ECO Shea Mathis responded to two poaching complaints of shots fired in the town of Lorraine. Mathis quickly identified two suspects and issued trespassing tickets for knowingly entering posted property to hunt raccoon. Mathis spent hours tracking down suspects on the second complaint, finally finding a poacher who admitted to illegally killing an 11-point buck around 11 p.m. The man’s firearm and the deer were seized as evidence and he was arrested for taking deer with the aid of artificial light, discharging a firearm from a public highway, illegally taking a white-tailed deer, and failure to tag the deer.
The family that poaches together
On Nov. 22, ECOs Joshua Sulkey and Geoffrey Younglove were on a separate investigation when they observed blood in the back of a van and on the side of the road nearby. They followed the van owner to his residence and observed three tagged buck heads and one tagged, unprocessed buck. Deer taken in New York must be tagged by the hunter who shoots it. ECO Ricky Wood responded to assist with the developing investigation. The ECOs determined that one hunter had killed two of the tagged bucks and another had killed three bucks and one antlerless deer, tagging two of the bucks with his wife’s tag. Two illegal deer were seized. The suspects were charged with numerous Environmental Conservation Law violations, including using another person’s hunting tags, lending hunting tags to another person, failure to tag deer as required by law, taking over the limit of deer, and failure to report deer harvests. All charges were pending in Fallsburg Town Court in Sullivan County and Wawarsing Town Court in Ulster County.
On Nov. 22, ECO Robert Higgins was on foot patrol when he heard two gunshots close to a baited treestand he was investigating in a remote area of the Adirondacks. Hunting with the aid of bait is illegal in New York. Higgins rushed to the stand but the culprit was already gone. Pumpkins and apples were scattered about and five deer congregated in the vicinity. Drag marks from a fresh deer carcass led to the back of the culprit’s house, where he was preparing to gut a freshly killed 8-point buck next to a larger 9-point buck. The suspect said that he did not have a tag for the eight pointer and claimed a friend had shot the nine-pointer the previous day. The story then changed, and the suspect said that he, in fact, had shot the nine pointer. With the assistance of ECO George LaPoint, the friend was interviewed. He confessed to loaning his deer tags to the original suspect. The suspect was charged with taking deer over bait, taking over the limit of deer, possessing the tags of another hunter, and illegally killing deer. The case was pending in Johnsburg Town Court.
On Nov. 23, ECOs Scott Angotti and Mark Colesante conducted a deer decoy detail in the town of Tyre. Deer decoys are used to address complaints of poachers shooting from vehicles. Shortly after setting up the decoy in a safe area, a man stopped, exited his vehicle and, while leaning over his vehicle, fired twice at the decoy. An ECO on foot attempted to apprehend the subject but he jumped into his vehicle and attempted to flee. The second ECO blocked the roadway and the subject veered into a snowbank before surrendering. He was handcuffed and arraigned in Tyre Town Court for possessing a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle, shooting from a public highway, trespassing, failure to comply with a lawful order, aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, forged inspection sticker, uninspected vehicle, and unlicensed operation. The decoy remained unscathed, as both shots missed.
Poachers in the dark
Late in the afternoon on Nov. 23, ECO Shawn Dussault received a call from a concerned hunter. The caller had observed two hunters in a hedgerow between two fields after sunset. The caller expressed concern of possible illegal activity because a group of deer was headed toward the two hunters. Dussault asked the caller to remain at the scene. Moments later, almost 40 minutes past sunset, a shot rang out. When Dussault arrived at the scene, he went down the hedgerow and was able to make out two dark spots in the field, huddled close to the ground. Dussault turned on his flashlight and observed two males gutting out a doe. Dussault recovered and unloaded the men’s firearms and took possession of all licenses and tags. The shooter and accomplice were charged with hunting after hours, taking an antlerless deer without a permit, and numerous other ECL charges.
On Thanksgiving Day, ECO Steve Shaw responded to an anonymous complaint that a deer had been shot within 500 feet of a residence in violation of Environmental Conservation Law. Upon arrival, he located an antlered deer hanging in a tree. He interviewed the man who had shot the deer, but the individual denied shooting near any houses. Two days later, Shaw returned with ECO Mark Klein and in the course of interviewing the man they noticed a group of turkeys unusually congregating around one spot on the property. Closer inspection revealed a block of salt and a pile of corn. When pressed further, the man confessed that he had shot the buck at that spot. He was charged with hunting over bait, placing a salt block on lands inhabited by deer, and illegally taking big game. The deer was seized and donated to the Venison Donation Program, which provides needy families with venison processed by local deer butchers.
On Nov. 26, ECO Robert Hodor was on patrol when he observed deer legs sticking out of the bed of a truck. He spoke to the driver, who stated he was “transporting the deer for his mother,” and that he could not “get those damn legs to stay down.” When asked for a consignment note required by law when the taker of the deer is not present, he stated he did not have one. Hodor then said he was calling the man’s mother to ask about the deer she had shot. The man then admitted that he had shot the deer and put his mother’s tag on it. He was issued tickets for possessing the tags of another hunter and for illegally taking a deer. The cases were pending in Clinton Town Court.
‘I did it for my kid’
On Nov. 24, ECO Anthony Drahms received a complaint that a man had illegally shot a buck from the road using a shotgun. The caller gave a description of the vehicle, the man, his firearm, and the deer, which was a “wide 6-pointer without brow tines.” ECO Craig Tompkins responded to assist in the investigation at the scene, where the ECOs located a spent 20-guage shotgun shell, two sets of footprints, and evidence that a deer had been dragged. The ECOs then drove to the suspect’s house and saw a buck matching the description. After a short interview the man confessed but was adamant that he did not shoot from the road. The ECOs seized the illegal buck and issued the man tickets for discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a residence, hunting with a shotgun in an archery-only area, illegally taking a deer, and improperly tagging a deer. When asked why he did it, the man stated, “My son thought it was a big buck. I did it for my kid.”
Endangered species sting
(New York County)
On Sunday Dec. 4, DEC Region 2 investigators had just wrapped up an undercover assignment and were walking the streets of lower Manhattan when they came upon an outdoor antiques flea market on West 25th Street. Of the 50 vendors at the flea market, six were found attempting to illegally sell items made from protected wildlife. Five vendors were displaying items carved from elephant ivory and one vendor was selling items made from leopard hide. Investigators acting in an undercover capacity confirmed prices of the illegal pieces and immediately called surrounding uniform members in plainclothes to assist. The team successfully executed multiple simultaneous buy busts. In the end, six defendants were charged with a total of 14 criminal summonses related to the illegal commercialization of protected wildlife, two of which were misdemeanor level. All of the illegal items were seized as evidence. The violators were due to appear in Manhattan Criminal Court to face charges. Elephants and leopards are federally listed as endangered species and their commercialization is banned in New York state, unless the items qualify for an exemption under the law and the owner acquires a DEC license to sell.
Illegal dumping averted
On April 4, Lt. Tom Gadomski, along with ECOs Tim Fay, Mark Simmons and Landon Simmons met along a deserted road to discuss a complaint of a possible illegal wildlife violation in Medford when they observed a truck and trailer filled with construction and demolition debris as it pulled up to their location. The area is known for attracting of illegal dumpers. When the driver spotted the four ENCON Police vehicles he quickly attempted to turn around with his load of debris. When the officers stopped the truck the driver assured the officers that he was not planning to dump it illegally. ECO Fay suggested the operator dump the debris legally at the town dump that was only a half mile away. Before the operator was sent on his way he was issued tickets for uninspected vehicle, unregistered trailer and transporting an uncovered load.
In the pre-dawn hours of April 18, ECOs Ricky Wood and Matt Baker, along with Lt. Michael Bello arrested two men for unlawful disposal of solid waste in excess of 70 cubic yards into a regulated freshwater wetland. ECO Wood had received a complaint late Friday evening that a trucking company out of Long Island had been seen dumping near the wetland off of Hill Street in Loch Sheldrake. This activity had been previously reported to ECO Wood as occurring between the hours of 4-6 a.m. The morning of the arrests, the officers had organized a surveillance of Hill Street to address the complaint. At 6 a.m., two NYTAC tractor trailer tandems pulled onto the site, backed up to the edge of the already filled hillside, and tipped their loads over the embankment and into the wetland. The officers responded, placing both drivers under arrest. The drivers admitted that they had each previously delivered and dumped approximately 30-35 yard loads of fill to the site; the approximately 2,100 yards of fill originating from American Recycling Management, Queens and Zevel Transfer, Bronx. The latest two loads of fill were dirt and rock co-mingled with large chunks of drywall and other unrecognizable processed construction and demolition waste. Both men were transported to the state police barracks in Liberty where they were interviewed, processed, and charged before their immediate arraignment at the Town of Fallsburg Court. State police and the Sullivan County District Attorney’s Office have aided in this ongoing investigation. On April 25, the investigation continued following the arrest of the two subjects on the class A-Misdemeanor of unlawful disposal of solid waste in excess of 70 cubic yards. Region 3 Zone 2 members were joined that date by BECI and the statewide Sampling Team, as well as the state Department of Labor, in a joint effort to sample the site for hazardous materials.
New York State troopers partnered up with ECOs for the opening weekend of the Southern Zone firearms deer season on Nov. 19 and 20. Four “Green-Grey” teams responded to 45 complaints, ranging from deer illegally shot from the roadway to illegally baited hunting stands. More than 70 tickets were issued for violations and misdemeanor offenses of Environmental Conservation Law, resulting in the seizure of 12 illegally taken deer and three illegally taken bear. Thirty hunters were issued tickets for hunting with the aid of bait. The Green-Grey patrol is an excellent opportunity for the two agencies to work alongside each other and to train together to understand each other’s capabilities. This can be of value when responding to incidents when all agencies respond.
‘It’s Just Water’
On March 27, ECO Whalen received a call from a citizen who had just returned home from an early shopping excursion at Home Depot. While getting into his car there, he witnessed an employee of the Big Lots store empty a floor cleaning machine into the parking lot storm sewer drains. He took some photos with his cell phone and he confronted the employee who told him “it’s just water”.
During her investigation ECO Whalen determined that a company was subcontracted to buff and wash the floors once a week before the Big Lots store opened at 9 a.m. On the morning of April 20, she returned to watch the location in question when she observed a man and woman pushing the floor cleaning machine across the parking lot. The man opened the machine and drained sudsy water on the ground into a storm drain. ECO Whalen stopped the dumping and issued a summons for the unlawful disposal of waste water in contravention of water quality standards.
So tired of tires
(Delaware, Otsego, Chenango counties)
On April 4, a 37-year-old Sidney village resident pleaded guilty to transporting regulated waste without a DEC permit and unlawful disposal of waste tires.
The defendant was ordered to pay $3,180 and the sentence came with a one year conditional discharge on the agreement, which included him being forbidden to be in the tire business for one year. The investigation that led to his arrest uncovered charges against a second business in Otsego County for relinquishing waste tires to an unpermitted party). The owner of the tire company subsequently entered into an order of consent with the DEC. In doing so, he agreed to pay a $2,500 penalty and to accept 1,000 tires from the two defendants during their cleanup. The cases came as a result of a four-month investigation by Lt. Harrington, ECO Tim Card of Otsego County, and ECOs Nate Doig and George Wilber of Delaware County. Together the officers made cases against the two co-defendants in the townships of Bainbridge, Sidney, Unadilla, Butternut and Davenport.
Thanksgiving Day shellfish
On Thanksgiving Day, ECOs Lucas Palmateer and Zachariah Brown were on shore patrol while ECOs Christopher Macropoulos and Waldemar Auguscinski were on boat patrol at Broad Channel American Beach. Five subjects were seen taking shellfish from uncertified waters, which are waters that are not clean enough to permit harvesting of shellfish for human consumption. Shellfish from these waters can cause illness and/or jeopardize New York’s commercial shellfish industry. The ECOs issued tickets to four of the subjects, seized approximately 200 hard-shelled clams, 75 mussels, and 10 soft-shelled clams and released them back to state waters.
Fuel oil spill
On April 4, ECO Jared Woodin was called by DEC Dispatch Center about a possible spill in the town of Harpersfield. ECO Woodin arrived on scene, where he observed approximately 2,000 gallons of fuel oil that had been spilled. DEC Spills, New York State troopers and the Delaware County Sheriff’s Department were also on scene. Due to the accident State Highway 23 was closed for a period of time in order to clean up the spill. The driver was issued multiple tickets from Delaware County sheriffs and ECO Woodin.
During the first week of April, ECO Don Damrath and City of Syracuse Police Officer Carlos Romain managed to catch two of the culprits responsible for dumping tires, construction and demolition debris, and municipal solid waste at one of the many abandoned properties in the city. The two individuals were observed dumping the waste in broad daylight after eluding hidden cameras and local tipsters for months. ECO Damrath and officer Romain arrested the men a short time later with another truck load of waste ready for disposal. After intense questioning the culprits admitted to their illegal activities and will face a city judge and thousands of dollars in fines and/or jail time.
Garbage fire threatens home
On April 15, ECO Dave Thomas responded to a 911 call of a grass fire in the town of Orwell. The Orwell Fire Department was already on scene fighting the fire when ECO Thomas arrived. A large swath of grassland was burning quickly in several directions. ECO Thomas assisted in quenching the blaze. Eventually all areas of the fire were extinguished and ECO Thomas was able to investigate the cause. Not surprisingly, the culprit was a pile of household garbage and demolition material that was set ablaze by the homeowner. If it were not for the southerly wind that day, the home may have been lost. Two individuals in the home were treated by EMTs for breathing difficulties, but there were no serious injuries. The individual who started the garbage fire was charged with Open Burning of Solid Waste.