Importing deer illegally is a no-no in many states, with wildlife agencies prohibiting the movement of deer for fear of introduction of diseases among the main reasons for the laws.
That doesn’t stop some people from moving deer from one state to another, though. With the number of high fence breeding and preserve operations growing each year, importation is a big business. But three Louisiana men found out the hard way that it’s a good way to get in trouble and pay a hefty fine.
Ronald W. Reine, 67, Brian R. Reine, 44, Bruce A. Swilley Jr., 27, and Omni Pinnacle, LLC, all of Slidell, Louisiana, were sentenced in federal court Oct. 30 on violations of the Lacey Act for importing white-tailed deer into Mississippi, announced U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Davis, Special Agent in Charge, Luis Santiago of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Director of Investigations Robert T. Oliveri with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.
Brian Reine, who previously pled guilty to the felony offense of importing white-tailed deer, was sentenced to nine months in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons and two years of supervised release. His father, Ronald Reine, who previously pled guilty to the misdemeanor offense of importing white-tailed deer, was sentenced to three years of probation, six months home confinement and a $10,000 fine. Bruce Swilley, who previously pled guilty to the misdemeanor offense of importing white-tailed deer, was sentenced to three years of probation, nine months home confinement and a $10,000 fine. Their closely held corporation, Omni Pinnacle, LLC, pled guilty to a felony and was sentenced to five years of probation.
All defendants were ordered to pay restitution to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks in the amount of $1.5 million. Each defendant forfeited all interest in the white-tailed deer, a truck and breeding facility.
In the latter part of 2012, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks initiated an investigation into the illegal importation of live white-tailed deer into the state of Mississippi. Omni Pinnacle, a corporation based in Slidell, Louisiana, along with Brian Reine, Ronald Reine and Bruce Swilley, Jr., all residents of Slidell, conspired to import the white-tailed deer onto their property in Lamar County and Pearl River County, Mississippi. From 2009-2012, at least nine shipments of white-tailed deer, with a value exceeding $100,000, were released onto their property known as Half Moon Ranch and Hunter’s Bluff.
Importing live white-tailed deer and falsifying records is a violation of state and federal law. Importing live white-tailed deer can introduce Chronic Wasting Disease into the native deer herds and bovine tuberculosis and bovine brucellosis into livestock. In addition, the importation of white-tailed deer represents a great danger to Mississippi’s hunting heritage and to the $900 million economic benefit white-tailed deer provide to the state.
“The Department of Justice is committed to enforcing the Lacey Act and other federal laws to protect our wildlife resources,” said U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Davis. “This office will continue to work closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks to enforce the Lacey Act. It is my hope that the $1.5 Million payment in restitution will help mitigate any damage done by these defendants and send a strong message that the illegal importation of white tail deer into our State will not be tolerated.”
United States Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent in Charge Luis Santiago stated, “We take our mission working with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks and the citizens of Mississippi in conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats very seriously. We will continue working vigorously investigating those who choose to violate state and federal laws.”
Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Director of Investigations Robert T. Oliveri commented, “The importation of white-tailed deer into Mississippi is a violation of both state and federal law and that this sentence should act as a deterrent to others who might consider importing white-tailed deer into the state.”
This case was prosecuted by Deputy Criminal Division Chief Darren LaMarca.
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