Category Archives: Enforcement

Ivory Sales Lead to Court Conviction in Los Angeles County

A Los Angeles County jury has convicted Anthony Buccola, 51, of Newport Beach, and his business, Antonio’s Bella Casa, on misdemeanor charges of selling narwhal tusks. Buccola and his business were found guilty on Aug. 1 in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Buccola was sentenced to 36 months probation with search terms, 200 hours of community service or 20 days in jail, $5,000 fine plus penalty assessment and forfeiture of the narwhal tusks. Antonio Bella Casa, Inc, was sentenced to 36 months probation with search terms, a fine of $5,000 plus penalty assessment and forfeiture of the narwhal tusk. The penalty was set pursuant to Fish and Game Code, section 2022, which took effect on July 1, 2016.

The investigation began in December 2016, when wildlife officers from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Law Enforcement Division Trafficking Unit saw two narwhal tusks displayed at the retail antique store. The tusks were 79 and 87 inches long. An officer visited Antonio’s Bella Casa and an employee offered to sell the narwhal tusks for $35,000 each. He ultimately agreed to sell the tusks to an undercover officer for $30,000 each.

The tusks were seized as evidence and the CDFW Wildlife Forensics Lab conducted additional analysis. Wildlife forensics specialists confirmed the tusks were from narwhal.

“We would like to thank the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office and specifically their Environmental Justice Unit for their assistance in this investigation and the subsequent prosecution,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Law Enforcement Division Chief. “The penalties assessed by this court should deter further acts of ivory trafficking and prove California’s commitment to halting the demand for ivory which contributes to poaching of narwhal in their native range.”

“Selling ivory is not only illegal, it’s immoral,” said Mike Feuer, Los Angeles City Attorney. “The ivory trade is abominable, with devastating consequences that imperil threatened species like the narwhal. This prosecution and conviction sends the strong message that those who may think of selling ivory tusks will be held accountable. I also want to thank our partners at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for their close partnership on this important issue.”

Assembly Bill 96, authored in 2015 by then Assembly Speaker and current Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), made it unlawful to purchase, sell, offer for sale, possess with intent to sell or import with intent to sell ivory or rhinoceros horn, except as specified. AB 96 defines ivory as the tooth or tusk from a species of elephant, hippopotamus, mammoth, mastodon, walrus, warthog, whale or narwhal, or a piece thereof, whether raw ivory or worked ivory, and includes a product containing, or advertised as containing, ivory. A first-time violation of this law is a misdemeanor subject to specified criminal penalties and fines between $1,000 and $40,000, depending upon the value of the item.

Media Contacts:
Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 651-6692
Kyle Orr, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8958

Opening Weekend of Lobster Season Keeps Southern California Wildlife Officers Busy

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Wildlife officers from across Southern California participated in an enhanced patrol for opening weekend of the 2018 lobster season, which began on Sept. 29. The goal was to facilitate a safe and enjoyable start to lobster season and enforce the laws so future generations can also enjoy the sport.

Wildlife officers from inland regions of Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties converged on the coast to pool resources and enhance coverage. Both shore-based patrols and boat patrols were utilized. In total, officers made 2,088 contacts with lobster fishers, gave 165 warnings and issued 106 citations. Citations included overlimit of lobster and other fish, take of undersized lobster and other fish, unlawful take from Marine Protected Areas, lobster report card violations, an unlawful Commercial Passenger Fishing Vessel operation and even a DUI.

One particularly notable case was in San Diego, where wildlife officers on boat patrol pulled up on a vessel with two persons on board. Upon approach, the men started throwing lobsters overboard. The officers quickly boarded the vessel and located 26 lobsters hidden throughout. The men were cited for an overlimit of lobster and report card violations. Another significant bust and citation occurred farther north in Orange County, where two wildlife officers made one case involving 27 lobsters taken the night prior to the opener (thus out of season).

During a large opener like this, the vast majority of individuals contacted by officers are law-abiding fishers and divers who cooperate with law enforcement and are even eager to show off their hard-earned catch. For example, in Dana Point Harbor in Orange County, Warden Andreas Gilbert contacted a group of four lobster free-divers (a free-diver is a diver who holds their breath, dives to the bottom for lobster, sometimes in the dark with a flashlight in one hand, and grabs the lobster with the other). The four were in possession of several legal lobsters and were extremely cooperative with Gilbert. After the contact, they asked to pose for a photo with Gilbert, who happily obliged.

CDFW’s Law Enforcement Division reminds lobster fishers to keep their activities safe. SCUBA divers should make sure their gear is in order and they are healthy and strong enough to safely dive. Most dive shops offer refresher courses for SCUBA-certified divers who may be rusty. At minimum, divers should try on all their gear ahead of time and hop in a pool. And always dive with a buddy – never alone.

Officers are always on patrol, and this year they are keeping a particularly close eye out for incidents of poaching from commercial traps. The State of California has partnered with commercial lobster fishers on permitting and scientific data collection for decades, and strictly regulates commercial lobster fishing in large part to support and protect the resource and industry. Stealing from commercial traps is a serious crime – in addition to being illegal, the behavior is unethical and unsportsmanlike, and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. In July, a San Diego area poacher previously convicted of stealing lobsters from traps was convicted and sentenced to 45 days in jail, was fined $1,000 and all gear seized during the investigation was forfeited by the court. He was also placed on three years probation, during which time he must stay away from the South La Jolla State Marine Reserve.

Please visit CDFW’s lobster information webpage to review helpful information and links to current regulations.

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Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 322-8911
Lt. Scott Bringman, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (619) 562-2456

Wildlife Officers Remove Cannabis Grow Site from CDFW Wildlife Area

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Law enforcement officers with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recently conducted a successful outdoor raid on a black-market marijuana cultivation site in the White Slough Wildlife Area in San Joaquin County. In all, wildlife officers removed approximately 1,700 plants at the site.

In the late summer, wildlife officers received information regarding a possible cultivation site. On Sept. 21, K-9 assisted teams from CDFW’s Marijuana Enforcement Team (MET) arrested Fernando Garcia-Lizea, 25, of Lodi. The suspect was armed with a .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol. He was booked into San Joaquin County Jail on multiple felony charges.

After securing the site, officers from other CDFW Special Operations, as well as San Joaquin County Sheriff’s deputies, assisted in the eradication and cleanup of the site. MET officers discovered a bottle of toxic chemicals, along with a face mask and latex gloves used by the suspects. Though the label was mostly removed, officers determined the bottle likely contained cufuran, which is part of a family of banned, highly toxic poisons that are increasingly found at illegal grow sites and are lethal to wildlife even in the smallest doses.

CDFW established MET in 2013. The team’s primary duties include detection and apprehension of transnational criminal organization cartel suspects whose illegal cultivation of black-market marijuana poses an ever-growing public safety and environmental threat. The teams then work to rehabilitate the sites and attempt to restore the damaged habitat.

“These grows threaten the public, destroy habitat, pollute our lands and waterways, illegally divert water, and put unsafe and untested cannabis products on the black market that are frequently grown using toxic chemicals,” said David Bess, Deputy Director and Chief of the CDFW Law Enforcement Division.

CDFW collaborated with the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office and the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office on the mission. CDFW would like to remind the public to be aware of their surroundings and report poaching and pollution information to the CDFW 24/7 CalTIP hotline at (888) 334-2258.

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Media Contacts:
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937
Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 651-6692

Wildlife Officer Cadet Application Deadline Rapidly Approaching

Do you have a love of the outdoors and a passion for fish and wildlife conservation? The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Law Enforcement Division (LED) is currently accepting applications for Wildlife Officer (Warden) Cadet. All prospective applicants must submit a warden cadet application by Sept. 30, 2018 to be considered for the 2020 law enforcement academy.

CDFW has posted answers to the most commonly asked questions about a career as a wildlife officer, along with other informational materials, on the LED webpage. All prospective candidates are encouraged to extensively review this information before applying.

CDFW wildlife officers are fully sworn California peace officers with a fundamental duty to serve and protect the public. Wildlife officers focus their efforts on enforcing the Fish and Game Code and regulations promulgated under that code, but they have the authority to enforce all California laws, including the Vehicle Code, Penal Code, Health and Safety drug laws and more. Most know how wildlife officers protect California fish and wildlife from poachers – but there’s much more! Wildlife officers protect our waterways and habitat from destruction, pollution and litter, provide the public with hunting and fishing information, and promote and coordinate hunter education and safe weapons handling.

Wildlife officers patrol the mountains, valleys, deserts, creeks, streams, rivers and up to 200 miles out to sea. They frequently work alone and cover both rural and urban areas. California’s diverse ecosystem spans 159,000 square miles divided into 58 counties, with a human population nearing 40 million. The state has 1,100 miles of coastline, 30,000 miles of rivers and streams, 4,800 lakes and reservoirs and 80 major rivers. Wildlife officers patrol utilizing trucks, ATVs, personal watercraft, boats, snowmobiles and airplanes, making contact with Californians in the great outdoors. Wildlife officers work undercover, conduct surveillances and complete in-depth investigations, including writing and serving search warrants. CDFW LED has numerous specialized teams and assignments including K-9, wildlife trafficking, marijuana eradication and watershed protection, marine patrol and oil spill prevention and response.

Annually, wildlife officers make contact with more than 295,000 people and issue more than 15,000 citations for violations of the law.

Successful applicants for warden cadet will attend a Peace Officer Standards of Training (POST) certified law enforcement training academy, conducted by CDFW at Butte College, near Chico in northern California. Following the academy, probationary wildlife officers will work with a seasoned field training officer for several weeks, where they will learn to apply their training in practical circumstances.

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Media Contacts:
Lt. Chris Stoots, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 651-9982
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

 

CDFW to Graduate 32 New Wildlife Officers

It is a great day when the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) adds graduates of the Wildlife Officer Academy to the ranks of its Law Enforcement Division.

CDFW’s most recent Wildlife Officer Academy class will graduate Friday, Aug. 10, with a final inspection at noon and the formal ceremony beginning at 1 p.m. at the Paradise Performing Arts Center in Paradise. The 32 new wildlife officers will begin the CDFW Field Training Program to put their training into practice under the close supervision of experienced Field Training Officers (FTOs). Two additional cadets paid their way through the Academy as “self-sponsors” in the interest of applying for a wildlife officer position with the CDFW Law Enforcement Division or a different law enforcement agency.

“Both full-time Academy staff and dozens of wildlife officers go to great lengths to prepare our newest wildlife officers to serve and protect the public and the precious resources of this state,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of Law Enforcement.

CDFW’s Wildlife Officer Academy is certified through the California Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) and offers training consistent with every law enforcement agency in California. Field training with experienced FTOs is also mandated by POST to be sure new wildlife officers can apply the skills they learned during the academy to real life circumstances. The Field Training Program is the final stage of formal training. Upon successful completion, these officers will begin patrolling California to protect the natural resources of this great state.

Wildlife officers make contact with more than 295,000 people and issue more than 15,000 citations annually. These officers primarily work alone, in remote areas, contacting subjects who almost always have some form of weapon, and they do so knowing that backup could be hours away. Wildlife officers have large patrol districts and great responsibilities, and frequently a sole officer will cover an entire county. The average California wildlife officer’s patrol district exceeds 500 square miles.

In 2008, CDFW teamed with Butte College to provide peace officer academy training for prospective wildlife officers. That partnership provided CDFW a state of the art POST-certified academy facility with 43 years of police training history.

The Law Enforcement Division will be accepting applications through Sept. 30, 2018, for the Academy beginning in January 2020. For more information about becoming a wildlife officer and the application timeline, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/enforcement/career.

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Media Contacts:
Capt. Patrick Foy, Law Enforcement Division, (916) 322-8911
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988