LITTLE COMPTON, RI — After a long battle with Montana’s Fish, Wildlife & Parks department on claims of poaching game animals in that state, a number of local men have entered a plea deal, agreeing to pay $50,000 in restitution, after an investigation that dates back to 2014.
Little Compton residents Richard Leblanc and Marc Federico, and Westport resident Stephen Schenck were guided on Jan. 11 in a plea deal with Montana state prosecutors in Garfield County. In addition to the $50,000 fine, the men were placed on six months’ suspended jail sentences, according to Montana fish and game officials.
William Mathews, of Florida, also agreed to similar terms in the case.
Joseph Caetano, also of Massachusetts, had previously reached a plea deal and agreed to pay a $3,750 fine and a six-month suspended jail sentence.
All the local men have also lost hunting, fishing and trapping privileges for 10 years in Montana.
Leblanc and his son-in-law, Federico, declined to speak on the record and directed comments to their Rhode Island attorney, Anthony Traini, who did not immediately return a request for comment.
Federico is the owner of The Moose Café in Tiverton.
Schenck and Caetano could not be contacted.
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The investigation led to 18 more hunters, mostly from the West Coast, receiving fines and loss of hunting privileges, including Acushnet resident Richard Medeiros.
In a statement released by Montana wildlife officials on Wednesday, an investigation that started in 2014 centered around the Byron Kerr Ranch, located in the northeastern part of the state.
Capt. JD Douglas, of the special investigations’ unit for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said Leblanc led a group of hunters who visited the ranch on annual hunting trips.
Douglas said the group had been investigated twice before between 2005 and 2011 and were issued 31 citations in that time frame for detention. A third investigation began in 2014 after the department was provided anonymous information on their wildlife tip line.
“They just left a trail of devastation when they came over here,” said Douglas.
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The hunters committed a number of violations regarding unlawfully shooting of antelope and deer, license violations and shooting game animals out of season, and they often left the carses in waste, said Douglas.
The group is also alleged to have unlawfully hunted mule deer bucks, one of the largest species of deer that requires special permitting and is covered by hunters.
On the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Facebook page, the wildlife agency posted disturbing photographs of dead wildlife, some partially dismembered as part of the poaching investigation.
Jo C. Goode may be reached at [email protected] Support local journalism and subscribe to The Herald News today!