Scott Flaherty (USFWS) 612-713-5309
Al Overbaugh, (U.S. Attorney) 515-284-6283
Todd Mulmsberry (Colorado DNR) 303-291-7410
Kevin Baskins, (Iowa DNR) 515-281-8935
Iowa Man Pleads Guilty to Poaching 38 Trophy Deer and Elk in Iowa and Colorado
George Allen Waters, a farmer from rural West Branch, Iowa, pleaded guilty today in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa at the U.S. Courthouse in Rock Island, Ill., to the illegal interstate transportation, and sale of 38 trophy white tailed deer, elk, and mule deer in violation of state and federal wildlife laws. He also pleaded guilty to a charge filed in the Northern District of Iowa for illegally possessing a fully-automatic machinegun. Waters entered his guilty plea in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas J. Shields.
In a signed plea agreement with the government, Waters, 53, admitted to “poaching” a total of 45 trophy-quality animals, valued at $270,000, from locations in Iowa and Colorado beginning in 1992. According to Southern District of Iowa U.S. Attorney Stephen Patrick O’Meara, the government’s agreement with Waters requires him to serve five years in federal prison, pay a fine of $10,000, a $300 special assessment and serve three years supervised release following his release from prison. Waters will also pay restitution of $30,000 to be divided equally between Colorado and Iowa. He will also forfeit numerous animal trophy mounts, skulls, parts and other hunting items seized by state and federal law enforcement agents during the investigation. Nine firearms were seized, including a 9mm fully-automatic machinegun. A U.S. District Judge will decide at Waters’ sentencing hearing whether or not to accept the terms of the plea agreement.
Waters admitted that from 1992 through the fall of 2002, he repeatedly snuck into the Iowa Army Ammunition Plant near Middletown, Iowa, and killed 24 trophy white tail deer. After killing the deer, he would retrieve only the antlers and heads, leaving the remainder of the animal to waste. He also poached whitetail deer in locations near Rochester, Bluegrass, Solon and other locations in Iowa. He would then attempt to sell the prized “racks,” some of which were scored and registered by The Boone and Crockett Club, a Montana-based non-profit club that maintains a registry of trophy animals. Waters knew that the Boone and Crocket scores would increase the trophies’ market value. In March 2003, Waters sold antlers from three trophy deer to an undercover agent of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
During the same ten-year period, Waters admitted to poaching
eight trophy elk and six mule deer in Colorado. Again, Waters took only the
animals’ antlers and heads and left the carcasses to rot. He transported the
elk and mule deer he killed in Colorado to Iowa, with the intention of
selling trophy racks. Waters did not possess a license to hunt elk or mule
deer during any of his trips to Colorado. In 1992 and 1998, he purchased a
non-resident bear-hunting license to gain access to hunting areas closed to
firearm elk and deer hunting. In Colorado and Iowa, Waters also used
out-dated and previously used licenses and “tags” to disguise his trophies
as being taken by legitimate hunters.
Waters’ prosecution is the result of a joint investigation by Special Agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, enforcement officers of the Colorado Division of Wildlife and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Army officials with the Iowa Army Ammunition Plant, the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Southern and Northern Districts of Iowa and the District of Colorado, and the U.S. Department of Justice, Environment and Natural Resources Division. An investigator with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources also assisted in the investigation.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses more than 542 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
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