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MT: 5 charged in illegal commercial hunting scam

January 20, 2010

5 charged in illegal commercial hunting scam

A Kentucky man has been sentenced for running an illegal commercial hunting business that utilized public Block Management Areas between 2005 and 2007 in northeastern Montana.

Robert Nelsen, 60, of Bowling Green, Ky., was fined $5,555 and was ordered to pay $1,050 in restitution after pleading guilty. He also had his hunting, fishing and trapping privileges revoked for eight years. When he was apprehended, Nelsen had more than 30 pheasants over his limit.

Four other men were also charged as a result of the investigation, some of them associates and the others clients.

Records show the men hit the Block Management Areas 93 days in 2005, 122 days in 2006, and 21 days in 2007. The Block Management Program opens private lands to public hunters. Landowners are paid by the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks for allowing access.

"Unauthorized commercial ventures are not allowed on BMAs," said Mike Herman, Region 6 warden captain, in a statement.

"We're seeing an increase in this type of commercial activity in the northeastern corner of the state," Herman added. "For the sake of the everyday hunter and the program, we're trying to control it. We don't want Block Management Areas to become 'slip in and slip out' access points for an unlimited number of commercial ventures."

Nelsen pleaded guilty in Montana 15th Judicial District Court to a felony count of outfitting without a license. He also was convicted on the misdemeanor charges in Roosevelt County Justice Court: wasting and abandoning a game bird, discharging a firearm from a public roadway, three counts of hunting game birds without permission, three counts of accountability (for the conduct of clients), three counts of acting as an outfitter without a license, and seven counts of killing and/or possessing more than the legal limit of game birds.

Nelsen's associates and clients included William McCarley of Auburn, Ky., Perry Bond of Louisville, Ky., Chris Riopelle of Denver, Colo., and James Booth of Davie, Fla.

McCarley was convicted on a misdemeanor count of violating Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission regulations for illegally shooting a hen pheasant and was fined $135.

Bond was convicted on a misdemeanor count of hunting during a closed season for shooting a hen pheasant. He was fined $135 and was ordered to pay $25 in restitution.

Riopelle and Booth each received deferred prosecutions with fines and restitution attached to two misdemeanor counts of retaining the services on an unlicensed outfitter. They each paid a $575 fine and $500 in restitution and for a period of one year. .

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