Wardens arrest four in Lassen and Plumas counties poaching investigation

Contact: DFG Lt. Patrick Foy, (916) 651-6692

A citizen tip about deer poaching turned into a multi-agency operation resulting in the seizure of poached wildlife, drugs and stolen guns and cars.

The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) operation, which included assistance from U.S. Forest Service officers, California Highway Patrol officers and Lassen County sheriff’s deputies, resulted in four arrests. The operation began Oct. 21 when DFG wardens received confidential information from a citizen and responded to the home of Charles Roger Godkin, 44, of Chilcoot, to investigate suspected deer poaching.

Lassen County Warden Nick Buckler and Plumas County Warden Steve Ulrich learned that Godkin had an active arrest warrant for a prior criminal offense. Upon arrival at his property, they discovered two stolen vehicles. The wardens postponed their investigation to get a search warrant for other buildings on the property. Wardens visited a neighboring property and interviewed Walter Charles Humbert, 57, and Nathan Reid Kerkes, 54, both of Chilcoot, about the case. They were found in possession of freshly butchered deer meat and more than six pounds of processed marijuana.

While awaiting court approval to search the other buildings on Godkin’s property, the wardens observed an unrelated vehicle drive by and shine lights out its windows in a fashion consistent with spotlighting deer. Wardens Ulrich and Douglas Willson followed the vehicle into Plumas County. Once stopped, Brandon Joe Lutes, 42, of Loyalton, attempted to flee on foot but was apprehended by Ulrich and CHP Officer Chad Griffin. Warden Willson cited the driver of the vehicle for driving while in possession of marijuana, expired registration, no driver’s license and stolen registration tabs.

With search warrant in hand, wardens completed the search of Godkin’s residence and found parts of a freshly killed deer. Godkin was arrested for the warrant plus felony possession of a stolen vehicle, felony receiving stolen property (another stolen vehicle), felony possession of a firearm with the serial number obliterated, felony possession of methamphetamine, misdemeanor unlawful take of a deer and misdemeanor unlawful possession of a deer. Humbert and Kerkes were arrested for felony possession of marijuana for sale, felony cultivation of marijuana, and possession of more than one ounce of marijuana. Lutes was arrested for possession of methamphetamine and associated paraphernalia.

“Resource enforcement is connected to all forms of crime,” said Warden Buckler. “We frequently encounter a variety of major crimes, including those involving drugs, firearms, and violence in our investigations, and having the assistance and support of other local, state, and federal agencies is a huge benefit.”

A CalTIP (Californians Turn In Poachers and Polluters) generated this case. CalTIP is a confidential witness program that encourages the public to provide DFG with information leading to the arrest of poachers and polluters. If you witness a poaching or polluting incident or any fish and wildlife violation, or have information about such a violation, immediately dial the toll free number: 1 888 DFG-CALTIP (888 334-2258).

Deer meat samples seized from the both properties were analyzed at DFG’s Wildlife Forensics Laboratory and were determined to have come from the same deer.