UPDATED JULY 12, 2012 7 A.M.–Two Twisp, Washington wolf poachers were sentenced to more than they bargained for when they appeared in a Spokane court today.
A federal judge tacked on six months of home detention for William D. White, 62, and three months home detention for his son, Tom D. White, 37.
They and federal prosecutors had reached a deal in April in which William pleaded guilty to conspiracy to kill an endangered species, conspiracy to export an endangered species and unlawful importation of wildlife and Tom pleaded guilty to illegally killing two wolves in exchange for paying hefty fines, serving three years of probation and forfeiting the guns they used to kill the wolves and Canadian wildlife.
The case began in late 2008 when a bloody wolf pelt was discovered in a shipping package being sent to a family friend of the Whites in Alberta.
Searches of the White’s computer files turned up photos of at least one other wolf killed by Tom, but differently colored, and other evidence, including a deer and a moose poached in 2007 by William.
Wolves in that part of Washington were and still are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.
The two had otherwise faced prison terms of seven years for William, two for Tom.
In a more muted response than the one he issued after the announcement of a plea deal that left out jail time, Mitch Friedman of Conservation Northwest said he was pleased with U.S. District Court Judge Frem Nielsen’s stiffening of the penalties. He also applauded game wardens’ work on the case.
“My hope is that these sentences send a strong signal to anyone considering harming wolves or any other wildlife,” he said in a press release.
The group has been deeply involved with the Lookout Pack, which ran on the White’s property southwest of Twisp, including a BBC-Discovery Channel documentary about it and other wolves in the state.
Wolf recolonization is not supported by everyone in Washington, but the management plan the state is now locked into requires that least 15 successful breeding pairs, including four in the North Cascades, be on hand for three straight years to reach minimum recovery goals.
The federal case’s resolution follows recent video releases by the state Department of Fish & Wildlife showing at least seven pups in two packs that weren’t confirmed to exist just a year ago, and word that a pack with genetic ties to the one Tom White shot up has had pups for a second year in a row.
Sentencing for Tom’s wife, Erin, 37, who attempted to ship the pelt out of Omak, went unchanged. For her guilty plea of conspiracy to and unlawful export of an endangered species, she will pay $5,000 and be on probation for three years.
Home detention means the men can go to work, doctor’s appointments and church, but otherwise must stay at home, according to their attorney, as paraphrased in The Wenatchee World.
William is on the hook for $15,000 in fines for his three federal crimes, Tom $10,000 for his, and they must jointly pay WDFW $20,000.
And as a condition of their federal sentence, William and Tom both must plead guilty to state charges in Okanogan County for hunting bear with a dog, and William must cop to poaching a trophy mule deer buck out of season — which carries an automatic $6,000 fine.
The Methow Valley News is reporting that that will result in the loss of state hunting privileges for both men for five years; the paper also states that William’s importation of his poached Canadian big game is a felony, meaning the former hunter ed instructor can no longer legally have a gun around.
“This case is not just about the illegal killing of wolves. It is about individuals who had utter disregard for the law and who bragged about violating state, national, and foreign laws,” said Pat Rogers, Acting Special Agent in Charge of Law Enforcement for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Region, in a press release.
The News quoted deputy Okanogan County prosecuting attorney David Gecas as saying: “I am pleased with the agreement that we reached in these cases. I think the combined penalties of the state and federal charges, which includes over $40,000 in financial obligations, along with the collateral consequences associated with Bill’s felony conviction, will send the message that we take poaching cases very seriously.”
The World quoted the White’s attorney, Craig Smith, as saying, “They’re just relieved to have this over … This has been an awful experience for them. They just want to get their life back.”
He termed them “good folk caught up in a controversial situation,” although there are suggestions from law enforcement sources that William has a history of disregard for game laws.
The USFWS was joined by WDFW, state Department of Agriculture, federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, Alberta Fish and Wildlife Division and Omak Police Department. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Timothy J. Ohms.
Here is the press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Spokane, via USFWS:
Twisp Trio Sentenced For Endangered Species Related Crimes
Spokane – Michael C. Ormsby, United States Attorney for the Eastern
District of Washington, announced that William D. White, age 62, Tom D.
White, age 37, and his wife, Erin J. White, age 37, all of Twisp,
Washington, were sentenced today for endangered species and other wildlife
By way of a plea agreement, William D. White earlier pleaded guilty to
Conspiracy to Take Endangered Species, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371 and
16 U.S.C. § 1538(a)(1)(B); Conspiracy to Export Endangered Species, in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371 and 16 U.S.C. § 1538(a)(1)(A); and Unlawful
Importation of Wildlife, in violation of 16 U.S.C. § 3372(a)(2)(A). He was
sentenced to: a three-years term of probation, subject to six months of
home detention and a hunting prohibition; a $5,000 fine for each offense
($15,000 total); and $20,000 in restitution to be paid jointly and
severally with Tom D. White to the Washington Department of Fish and
Wildlife. As a condition of his plea agreement, William D. White paid
$3,500 in previously unsatisfied fines assessed in connection with a
Canadian case in which he pleaded guilty to using another person’s
resident license to take an antlered moose and the unlawful possession of
wildlife (a moose). As a further condition of his plea agreement, William
D. White is required to enter guilty pleas to two state offenses: Hunting
Bear with Dogs, in violation of RCW 77.15.245(2) and Hunting Big Game in
the Second Degree, in violation of RCW 77.25.410(1).
Tom D. White, who also entered a plea agreement, earlier pleaded guilty to
two charges of Killing Endangered Gray Wolves, in violation of 16 U.S.C. §
1538(a)(1)(B). He was sentenced to: a three-years term of probation,
subject to three months of home detention and a hunting prohibition; a
$5,000 fine for both offenses ($10,000 total); and $20,000 in restitution
to be paid jointly and severally with William D. White to the Washington
Department of Fish and Wildlife. As a condition of his plea agreement, Tom
D. White is required to enter a guilty plea to a state offense: Hunting
Bear with Dogs, in violation of RCW 77.15.245(2).
Erin J. White, who earlier pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Export an
Endangered Species, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371 and 16 U.S.C. §
1538(a)(1)(A), and Unlawful Export of an Endangered Species, in violation
of 16 U.S.C. § 1538(a)(1)(A), was sentenced to: a three-years term of
probation and a $5,000 fine.
This case arose in 2008 from a report of a suspicious package that had
been left with a private shipping company in Omak, Washington. The package
was addressed to a resident of Alberta, Canada. An Omak police officer
responded to the report and observed that the package appeared to be
leaking blood. The package had been shipped by a woman who identified
herself as “Alison,” and provided a non-working telephone number for a
contact number. She also falsely labeled the shipment as containing a rug.
When the shipper and police officer opened the box, they observed that it
contained a fresh wolf hide. Wolves are protected as endangered species in
the Twisp area.
Through investigation, agents identified Erin J. White as “Alison.” During
a subsequent search of Erin and Tom D. White’s residence, Tom D. White
admitted to killing the wolf and Erin J. White admitted to attempting to
ship it to Canada. A further search of computer equipment and emails
revealed several photographs showing Tom D. White holding up a second dead
wolf. Agents also searched William D. White’s residence and computer. The
agents discovered evidence that revealed William D. White was involved in
a conspiracy to kill wolves and to export a wolf hide to Canada. Evidence
also revealed that William D. White had illegally killed wildlife in
Alberta, Canada, and thereafter imported that wildlife into the United
States in violation of the law.
At today’s sentencing hearing, United States Fish and Wildlife Agent
Charles Roberts testified that during interviews conducted in conjunction
with search of their residences, both William D. White and Tom D. White
stated that they had had no problems with the wolves living in the area.
At today’s hearing, the Court found that both William D. White and Tom D.
White had engaged in a pattern of similar violations regarding the
offenses to which they had pleaded guilty.
Michael C. Ormsby stated: “This important natural resources case is yet
another example of the effective law enforcement partnerships here in the
Eastern District of Washington.”
“This case is not just about the illegal killing of wolves. It is about
individuals who had utter disregard for the law and who bragged about
violating state, national, and foreign laws,” said Pat Rogers, Acting
Special Agent in Charge of Law Enforcement for the United States Fish and
Wildlife Service’s Pacific Region.
“The United States Fish and Wildlife Service appreciates the vital
assistance provided by its law enforcement partners on the local, state,
and international levels.”
The case was investigated by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service,
the Enforcement Division of the Washington State Department of Fish
Wildlife, the Washington State Department of Agriculture, the United
States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, Alberta (Canada) Fish
and Wildlife Division, and the Omak Police Department. The case was
prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Timothy J. Ohms.
While the White case is now almost fully resolved, one other case of an illegally killed Washington wolf — the skinned carcass of one dumped up Bacon Creek — is still open. Footage from a BBC video on the Lookout Pack briefly showed pictures of the scene where a WDFW Karelian bear hound found it.