Ohio wildlife officer, top Columbus officials charged in phony hunting license sale By D'Arcy Egan, The Plain Dealer
April 05, 2010, 11:25AM Southern Ohio wildlife officer Allan Wright and five top officials of the Ohio Division of Wildlife were indicted by a Grand Jury in Brown County Common Pleas Court on Monday morning. All were charged with felonies over the illegal sale of a resident Ohio hunting license to a South Carolina wildlife officer, a savings of $106.
The Ohio Office of the Inspector General said a confidential informant kicked off its four-month investigation of the license sale made in 2006, and failure by the Ohio wildlife agency to investigate the deception as a crime. DOW administrative officials charged with fifth-degree felonies are: Chief David Graham; Assistant Chief Randy Miller; law enforcement administrator James Lehman; District 5 Manager Todd Haines; and human resources administrator Michele Ward-Tackett.
The wildlife officer in Brown County, southeast of Cincinnati, Wright told investigators he let Eric Vaughn use his home address so Vaughn could purchase a resident Ohio license for $19, less then one-fifth the cost of a $125 non-resident license. Vaughn killed three Ohio deer in 2006. All of the deer were checked by Wright, rather than taken to a regular check station.
"Regular people get prosecuted for this," said Brown County Prosector Jessica Little. "This is not the crime of the century, but it is important the law be enforced equally. In this case, the cover up seems to be worse than the crime."
Wright told investigators that providing Ohio resident hunting licenses to wildlife officers from other states was a common practice, and his supervisors approved of it or were aware of it. The OIG report said Ohio wildlife administrators never considered Wright's actions to be criminal, and issued Wright a verbal reprimand. The more appropriate classification of "dishonesty" by willfully falsifying an official document was not considered, the report said
The policies of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and Gov. Ted Strickland were also violated by wildlife officials for not reporting the incident to the ODNR, as required.
Wright's home address was also used in 2001 by John D. Coffin of Michigan, who is not a wildlife officer, to purchase a resident Ohio hunting license. Vaughn did purchase a non-resident Ohio hunting license in 2007, using his South Carolina address.
Investigators searched the Ohio hunting license database and could find no other instances of the home addresses of wildlife officers appearing on any licenses other than for immediate family.