“That first phone call from the public was crucial,” said the conservation officer who led the investigation. “That’s what started the whole investigation.”
BOISE, Idaho — Five southwestern Idaho men have been charged with more than 50 wildlife violations stemming from a 2021 hunting incident that resulted in more than $21,000 in fines, 15 years of revocation license, 34 years of probation, 330 hours of community and the confiscation of their killing.
An Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) investigation, first launched in 2021, has led to charges in six different Idaho counties where the crimes were committed, including trespassing , malicious trespass on property, illegal taking of bass, spearfishing violations, hunting turkeys with electronic calls, as well as multiple deer and pronghorn hunting violations.
The men racked up additional penalties in even more counties as recently as August 2022, including Custer County.
Penalties were recently issued in several counties, including in August 2022 in Custer County, to the five wildlife offenders, including:
Todd A. Phillips, of Fruitland, was convicted on five of the original 13 charges; seven were dismissed as part of a plea deal. Phillips received $6,900 in fines, 12 years probation, a 12-year hunting license revocation (seven of which are suspended pending future violations), 100 hours of community service in lieu of jail, and confiscation of his 2020 and 2021 pronghorn.
Philips also pleaded guilty to a turkey hunting violation in Payette County, receiving a $350 fine and $1,000 bond forfeiture for deer hunting violations in Adams County. As part of his conviction and probation, Philips may not be in possession of any weapons where hunting activities may take place, including crossbows, air pistols, bows or firearms.
Darin Phillips, of Fruitland, was found guilty on five of the original seven charges, two of which were dismissed as part of a plea deal. He received $6,300 in fines, ten years probation, a ten-year hunting license revocation (five of which are suspended pending a probation violation), and 100 hours of community service in lieu of a prison sentence.
Braeden T. Phillips, of Payette, was convicted on three counts. He received $3,970 in fines, six years probation, a nine-year hunting license revocation (six years suspended pending a violation of his probation), and 60 hours of community service in lieu of a prison sentence. Philips also had his 2021 pronghorn confiscated and had to pay a $400 forfeiture in Kootenai County for two spearfishing violations.
Fruitland’s Jacob Phillips was found guilty on two of the original six charges, with four charges being dismissed as part of a plea deal. He received $990 in fines, four years probation, a five-year hunting license revocation, and 50 hours of community service in lieu of jail time. Since Jacob was under 21 at the time of the incident, his hunting privileges can be restored after one year if he completes a hunter education course. Jacob also pleaded guilty to one charge in Payette County, receiving a $400 fine.
Jeff Mosso, of Parma, was found guilty on one of the original four charges, with three of his charges having been dismissed as part of a plea deal. He received $1,665 in fines, two years probation, a three-year license suspension (two years are suspended for violating probation) and 20 hours of community service in lieu of a sentence. from prison.
IDFG received a phone call during the 2021 pronghorn archery season reporting a group trespass in the Pahsimeroi Valley. This initial call led to a thorough investigation which resulted in the indictment of the aforementioned men.
“That first phone call from the public was crucial,” said Chad Wippermann, the fish and game conservation officer who led the investigation. “That’s what started the whole investigation.”
The suspects had already left by the time Wippermann arrived on the scene, but evidence left behind showed vehicle tracks through a field of alfalfa, which ended in a small pool of blood and hair.
According to Wippermann, it appeared someone had shot a pronghorn in the field and loaded it into his car without first dressing him. While pronghorn archery season was underway at the time, the landowner had not allowed anyone to hunt on his land.
IDFG interviewed hunters in the area and was able to obtain a description of the vehicle, which led investigators to Payette where the suspects lived. Two days later, Wippermann received word of a vehicle vandalism in the Pahsimeroi Valley, where a pronghorn had been thrown over the hood of the vehicle, leaving behind blood, hair, and several dents.
After multiple interviews with the suspects at Fruitland, Payette and Parma, investigators learned of even more violations in addition to trespassing. There was evidence showing the pronghorn being chased with a vehicle and shot out of windows by crossbows and a rifle.
There have also been other violations, such as killing waterfowl and upland game birds during a closed season, killing protected species, hunting during closed seasons or at night, hunting without a tag or permit, as well as vandalizing the vehicle in Pahsimeroi Valley, Custer County. .
“The investigation revealed a shocking number of fish and game violations,” Wippermann said.
Although the penalties may seem significant, prosecuting law breakers is often a challenge. According to Wippermann, it’s common for wildlife violation investigations to go years undetected, due to Idaho’s short statute of limitations.
“We discovered many other violations during this investigation, but were unable to charge due to the statute of limitations for species other than big game,” Wippermann said.
Idaho is, however, a member of the Wildlife Violator Compact, which means that if a person’s hunting, fishing, or trapping license is revoked by one of the 49 member states, all remaining states will revoke the same license or privilege for the same period. .
IDFG said this case is a great example of how the public can play a vital role in helping solve wildlife crimes. Anyone with information relating to wildlife crime is encouraged to “call” the Citizens Anti-Poaching Helpline (CAP) at 1-800-632-5999.
Callers can remain anonymous and are sometimes eligible for a cash reward.
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