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Iowa Landowner Sentenced for Leasing Land Used in Illegal Guided Deer Hunts

DES MOINES - On October 21, 2015, Steven C. Miller, 63, of Russell, Iowa, was sentenced by Chief United States District Judge John A. Jarvey to four years of probation for his role in leasing land that was used in illegal guided deer hunts in Iowa, announced United States Attorney Nicholas A. Klinefeldt.

As a condition of his probation, Miller must pay a $3,000 fine, and cannot engage in hunting activities or allow any form of hunting or trapping to occur on his property. Miller was also ordered to pay a $2,500 money judgment in lieu of forfeiture of his equipment used during the illegal guided hunts, and pay a $25 special assessment to the Crime Victims Fund.

Iowa is a renowned destination for hunting white-tail, buck deer. The state is routinely ranked as one of the top states in the nation for producing trophy white-tail, buck deer. These deer serve as an important natural resource, which is carefully managed by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Part of this process involves the restriction on the number of out-of-state hunters who are allowed to hunt white-tail deer in Iowa each year. On average, out-of-state hunters can obtain a license once every three-to-four years to hunt white-tail, buck deer in Iowa.

People who hunt illegally for Iowa trophy deer undermine the State's management efforts, and deprive those who hunt ethically and follow the laws and regulations of opportunities to take trophy deer.

From around 2009 to January 2014, Miller leased land in rural Lucas County to Robert Jerome Wilkins of Alabama, for Wilkins to hunt for white-tail deer. Wilkins guided out-of-state hunters during paid hunts for trophy white-tail, buck deer on Miller's land. None of these out-of-state hunters possessed hunting license or tags as required by the laws and regulations of the State of Iowa. Some of the hunters were successful in illegally killing white-tail, buck deer, and the capes and antlers of those deer were transported from Iowa to Alabama.

Miller pled guilty on July 14, 2015, to a misdemeanor violation of the Lacey Act for the unlawful sale of wildlife in violation of 16 U.S.C. §§ 3372(a)(2)(A), 3373(d)(2). Miller acknowledged that in the exercise of due care, he should have known that the hunters were hunting for and killing the deer in violation of Iowa's hunting laws and regulations.

In the related cases, Robert Jerome Wilkins previously pled guilty to felony conspiracy to commit the unlawful sale of wildlife, was sentenced on July 17, 2015, by Senior United States District Judge James E. Gritzner to four years of probation, which included six months of home confinement. Wilkins was also ordered to pay $12,000 in restitution to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, pay a $100 special assessment to the Crime Victims Fund, and forfeit firearms and a scope used in the illegal hunts.

Wilkins was assisted during the guided hunts by Kinsman Bruce Wolfe of Montgomery, Alabama. On July 23, 2015, Wolfe was convicted by a jury of conspiracy to commit the unlawful sale of wildlife, as well as two counts of unlawful sale of wildlife, all felony offenses. Wolfe is scheduled to be sentenced by Chief United States District Judge Jarvey on November 20, 2015.

"These types of cases show a complete disregard for Iowa's hunting laws and regulations, and this criminal conduct will not be tolerated. Individuals engaging in such conduct, including landowners who allow their land to be used for unlawful hunting, will be held accountable," said United States Attorney Nicholas A. Klinefeldt.

This investigation was conducted by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, and the Alabama Game and Fish Division, and was prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Iowa.

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