Nevada Game Wardens Break Up Poaching Ring Responsible for Numerous Wildlife Crimes

Years-long investigation closes with felony wildlife and weapons charges for multiple offenders

poaching-ring

Photo: A game warden catalogs illegally taken game meat during the investigation.

Nevada game wardens have concluded an investigation of a poaching ring involving three suspects in several counties, spanning almost two years in a case that has netted a dozen felony charges and uncovered the illegal killing of dozens of animals.

The suspects in the poaching ring are Adrian Acevedo-Hernandez, aka "El Pantera," 36, Jose Luis Montufar-Canales, 31, and J. Nemias Reyes Marin, 31. An initial arrest of a fourth, separate suspect, Jose Manuel Ortega-Torres, 30, led to the three men who were determined to be actively engaging in several different wildlife crimes, prompting an in-depth investigation of the three men by game wardens. Ortega-Torres is from Lincoln County and the men involved in the poaching ring were all living in Las Vegas.

"This case involved a lot of time, effort and commitment by game wardens," said Chief Game Warden Tyler Turnipseed. "We followed one lead into another in what seemed to be a bottomless supply of wildlife crime. Hopefully the resulting fines, forfeitures and jail time will discourage this kind of systemic criminal activity in the future."

In June of 2013, Nevada game wardens received information that two deer had been unlawfully killed on a farm near Hiko, Nev. Game wardens viewed an image publicly available through social media and confirmed that two female deer were unlawfully killed out of season in late May.

Poahing-ring-busted

Photo: A game warden holds a photo discovered while executing a search warrant that that shows Adrian Acevedo-Hernandez, 36, with an illegally killed deer.

Game wardens identified one of the suspects in the photograph as Ortega-Torres. This led to a search warrant in Hiko at his residence, seizing illegal deer meat, trace evidence, unlawfully killed migratory birds, butchering tools, weapons and ammunition. Ortega-Torres was arrested at the same residence and later convicted in Lincoln County of a gross misdemeanor for unlawful possession of a mule deer.

Game wardens were able to identify a second suspect from the photograph, Acevedo-Hernandez. Game wardens served a search warrant at the suspect’s residence in Las Vegas, seizing more deer meat, deer parts, butchering tools, weapons and ammunition. Felony and gross misdemeanor charges were filed on Acevedo-Hernandez in Lincoln County for the unlawfully killing of two female mule deer out of season, he was taken into custody in July 2013.

Two more suspects, Montufar-Canales and Marin were also identified through public view social media as potential wildlife criminals associated with Acevedo-Hernandez.

The investigation showed Acevedo-Hernandez, Montufar-Canales and Marin had all used false information to unlawfully apply for resident hunting licenses and tags. DNA results from seizures in Hiko and Las Vegas showed three female deer out of closed season in Hiko in addition to three other female deer for a total of at least six deer illegally killed. Other wildlife including game fish, migratory game birds and protected migratory birds were also suspected of being unlawfully killed by the poaching ring. Game wardens will never be able to fully tally all the wildlife that were killed illegally by this group.

"The scope of criminal activity by a group like this can have a real adverse effect on our wildlife populations," said Cameron Waithman the lead investigating game warden. "The blatant disregard for wildlife laws by these individuals is quite stunning."

Toward the completion of the larger investigation, game wardens were able to file additional felony and gross misdemeanor charges on Acevedo-Hernandez and Marin for unlawful killing and possession of mule deer in Elko County. Montufar-Canales and Marin were additionally charged in Churchill County for tag fraud. Game wardens also began working with federal agents from the United States Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for potential Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) violations and federal weapons violations because the three men, Acevedo-Hernandez, Montufar-Canales and Marin, are possibly in the U.S illegally. It is a felony for an illegal alien to possess any firearm under both state and federal law.

A summary of the outcome of the state’s charges in the investigation is as follows:

  1. In January of 2014 Montufar-Canales was convicted in Churchill County of misdemeanor, using false information to obtain a hunting license and ordered to pay a $690 fine and received a 10 day suspended jail sentence.
  2. In June of 2014 Acevedo-Hernandez was convicted in Lincoln County of 2 gross misdemeanors for unlawful possession of 2 mule deer and ordered to pay a fine of $2,000, civil penalties totaling $3,000, forfeiture of 6 firearms seized and received credit for 249 days time served in jail.
  3. In July of 2014 Acevedo-Hernandez was convicted in Elko County of a gross misdemeanor for unlawful possession of a mule deer and ordered to pay a civil penalty of $250, forfeiture of his pickup truck, forfeiture of the rifle used to commit the crime, and credit for 12 months time served in jail.
  4. In July of 2014 Marin pled guilty in Elko County for a gross misdemeanor, unlawful possession of a mule deer. Marin is scheduled for sentencing in Elko County in December of 2014.

"We also want to get the message out to those who may be undocumented foreign nationals that they are prohibited by law from possessing a firearm or purchasing resident hunting licenses or tags," said Turnipseed. "We take these crimes seriously and will investigate and file pertinent state charges or work with federal law enforcement for grand jury indictments."

In July of 2014 the United States Attorney’s Office filed grand jury indictments on Montufar-Canales, Acevedo-Hernandez and Marin for Federal firearms violations and migratory bird treaty violations. All three subjects are now in federal custody awaiting trial.

The Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) protects, restores and manages fish and wildlife, and promotes fishing, hunting, and boating safety. NDOW’s wildlife and habitat conservation efforts are primarily funded by sportsmen’s license and conservation fees and a federal surcharge on hunting and fishing gear. Support wildlife and habitat conservation in Nevada by purchasing a hunting, fishing, or combination license. Find us on Facebook, Twitter or visit us at www.ndow.org.