Thursday, February 09, 2012

A great Judge in Idaho.............

Four men were jailed and fined thousands of dollars Monday in Custer County after pleading guilty to charges stemming from an investigation into illegal hunting activity in the Yankee Fork drainage.

A fifth man was sentenced in January. Two others were warned.

Jailed and fined were Juan Pasillas-Garcia, 44, of Hailey; Sergio Pasillas-Garcia, 39, and Bernardo Amaya, 38, both of Phoenix; and Martin Pasillas-Garcia, 45, of Torrence, Calif.

Jose Pasillas-Garcia, 30, of Hailey, had his jail sentenced suspended.

The sentences were some of the most severe for wildlife crimes that the state of Idaho has seen in a case that began on October 14, when an Idaho Fish and Game conservation officer watched two hunters leave their truck and hike up the mountain.

“I hid in the brush and ended up waiting nine hours for them to return,” Regional Investigator Ryan Hilton said. “It was a long, cold day, but by being out there I was able to hear the shots that we later confirmed illegally killed a six-point bull elk closed season and also took a video of them loading an illegal deer into their truck.”

Hilton was among Idaho Fish and Game conservation officers who had been investigating suspicious activities of two local men, two Arizona residents and one California resident, after receiving tips regarding the groups’ taking over-limits of deer and elk and hunting while the season was closed.

“We set up a camp in the same drainage to track their activities and either dispel or confirm the allegations,” Conservation Officer Andy Smith said.

Dressed like other hunters and carrying rifles of their own, the conservation officers followed the group around the clock for nearly a week listening for gunshots and documenting deer and elk being transported by the hunters.

“We suspected that they were transporting the animals to Hailey at night so we took turns sleeping so one of us could always be watching their camp,” Smith said.

Their persistence paid off. On the morning of October 15, the opening day of elk season, the suspects transported a six-point bull elk off the mountain from the location where Hilton had heard shots the day before.

After the suspects left the area, Smith and Sorensen headed up the mountain.

“We knew our chances were slim, but we had to find where the elk had been killed and verify that it was killed before the season had opened,” Smith said. A few hours later in a soaking rain storm they discovered that the individuals had done what they suspected.

Knowing that the group had an elk that had been killed before the season had opened, officers secured search warrants for the camp and vehicles. Officers from the Jerome and Salmon regions served warrants in the Yankee Fork drainage and on a vehicle near Hailey. The illegal elk and four illegal mule deer bucks were recovered.

From there, the scope of the investigation grew as the officers realized that most of the hunters involved were nonresidents that had been using their brothers’ address in Hailey to claim residency and illegally purchasing resident hunting licenses and tags. Some of the individuals had been doing this since 2001.

The officers issued a combined 49 citations and 21 warnings to seven individuals.

On Monday, February 6, Custer County Magistrate Judge Charles L. Roos sentenced the five men to a total of 2,910 days of jail time. Four of them were ordered to serve 200 days; the fifth had his jail time suspended. The total fines amounted to $25,223. One life time revocation of hunting, fishing, and trapping was handed down with 65 years of hunting, fishing, and trapping split among the other four.

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