Category Archives: Enforcement

California Wardens Break Up Deer Poaching Ring

Media Contacts:  
Patrick Foy, DFG Law Enforcement, (916) 651-2084
Jordan Traverso, DFG Communications, (916) 654-9937

California game wardens served two search warrants on members of a deer poaching ring early Thursday, resulting in the arrest of three Stockton men. Wardens arrested Thongseuth Khounchanh, 58, Ti Sila, 51, and Bounleuna Sysenglath, 59, as they returned from an all-night poaching trip in El Dorado County. The men were charged with killing deer and selling deer meat for profit.

“It took intensive effort from wardens to stop this poaching operation,” said California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Assistant Chief Tony Warrington. “Wardens from all over the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys, including wardens from our Special Operations Unit, the Delta-Bay Enhanced Enforcement Program, the air services unit and our K-9 unit, worked together to make this case.”

On May 26, 2011, an anonymous caller to the DFG CalTIP hotline reported suspected deer poaching activity involving Khounchanh, Sila and Sysenglath. Local Wardens Todd Estrada and Raul Lomeli immediately followed up on the tip and realized it led to a much larger case involving the illegal commercialization and selling of poached wildlife for profit. Wardens conducted an extensive investigation that revealed the suspects made multiple illegal poaching trips each week. The deer meat was sold as fast as they could get it.

The three poachers illegally used lights to help identify the deer in the darkness before using a .22 caliber rifle to make the kill. The deer were processed in the field and the meat was transported to the men’s homes in Stockton, where it was then sold to an established network of buyers.

Wardens used all available resources to make observations and collect evidence in this case, including warden K-9s that worked with their handlers to search for deer parts, spent bullet casings and other trace evidence. K-9 teams located parts of several freshly killed deer, including evidence that would likely have been missed otherwise, at multiple locations throughout El Dorado County.

On June 22, with three arrest warrants and two search warrants in hand, wardens waited for the poachers to start home from another all-night poaching trip. All three men were arrested without incident during a vehicle stop. The vehicle and all contents were seized as evidence and will be processed by wardens and the DFG Wildlife Forensics Lab. Wardens also served two search warrants on the subjects’ homes, and conducted more than 20 follow-up interviews with people suspected of purchasing deer meat from the suspects.

Evidence collected at the houses will undergo DNA analysis to find matches with evidence found in El Dorado County.

All three men were booked into El Dorado County Jail on charges of felony conspiracy and commercialization of deer. Khounchanh, a prior felon, will also face further felony charges of illegal firearm possession.

Selling any deer meat in California, whether it was taken legally under a recreational hunting license or killed illegally, is a crime. DFG encourages all Californians to report wildlife crimes to the CalTIP hotline at 1-888-334-2258 (DFG-CALTIP).

Free Fishing Day is Saturday, July 2

Media Contacts:  
Terry Foreman, DFG Fisheries Branch, (916) 445-3777
Dana Michaels, DFG Communications, (916) 322-2420

The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) invites anglers to celebrate Independence Day by fishing in California’s spectacular waters. Saturday, July 2 is the first of California’s two 2011 Free Fishing Days (the other will be Sept. 3), when people can try their hand at fishing without having to buy a sport fishing license.

All fishing regulations, such as bag and size limits, gear restrictions, report card requirements, fishing hours and stream closures remain in effect. Every angler must have an appropriate report card if they are fishing for abalone, steelhead, sturgeon, spiny lobster or salmon in the Smith and Klamath-Trinity River systems.

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DFG offers two Free Fishing Days each year – usually in conjunction with the Fourth of July and Labor Day weekend – when it’s legal to fish without a sport fishing license. This year, the Free Fishing Days were set for the Saturdays preceding Independence Day and Labor Day (July 2 and Sept. 3) because they fall on holiday weekends, when it’s likely to be the most convenient for the public.

Free Fishing Days provide a low-cost way to give fishing a try. Some DFG Regions offer a Fishing in the City program where you can go fishing in major metropolitan areas. Fishing in the City and Free Fishing Day clinics are designed to educate novice anglers about fishing ethics, fish habits, effective methods for catching fish and fishing tackle. You can even learn how to clean and prepare your catch so you can enjoy it for dinner that night.

Anglers should check the rules and regulations at www.dfg.ca.gov/regulations/ for the waters they plan to fish. Wardens will be on duty to enforce them. For more information on Free Fishing Days, please visit www.dfg.ca.gov/licensing/fishing/freefishdays.html.

Successful Abalone Checkpoints Conducted Along North Coast

Media Contact:
Patrick Foy, DFG Law Enforcement, (916) 508-7095

The California Department of Fish and Game conducted two abalone checkpoints on California’s north coast on June 16 and 17. Photograph of an abalone checkpoint.

Both checkpoints were slower than usual due to rough ocean conditions.

One checkpoint in Navarro, Mendocino County, was conducted by 21 game wardens and one State Parks ranger. Members of the Mendocino Abalone Watch Group assisted with distribution of abalone fishery information and directing traffic. Officers made contact with 409 divers and issued 10 citations for violations including overlimits of abalone, failure to complete abalone report card and properly tag abalone and possession of undersize abalone. Wardens are working with the Mendocino County District Attorney’s office to investigate two individuals who came through the checkpoint with 78 immature marijuana plants (each approximately 18 inches tall).

At Russian Gulch in Sonoma County, 20 officers including game wardens and State Parks and county park rangers contacted 563 divers. Officers issued 16 citations for overlimits of abalone and turban snails, abalone report card violations and possession of undersized Greenlings, short abalone, abalone out of shell and illegally harvested abalone.

Poachers Sentenced for Trafficking Abalone in Bay Area

Media Contacts:
Patrick Foy, DFG Law Enforcement, (916) 651-2084

An abalone poacher and restaurant owner have both been convicted and fined for engaging in the illegal sale of sport-caught abalone. Two state agencies, the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) and California State Parks (CSP), worked together with the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office to investigate the case and aggressively prosecute the crimes.

“Illegal commercialization of California’s abalone resources will not be tolerated,” said Tony Warrington, Assistant Chief of the DFG Law Enforcement Division.

In the fall of 2009, CSP rangers began to suspect abalone trafficking after making multiple contacts with diver Michael Sean Miller, 55, of Petaluma, in the area around Fisk Mill. Rangers relayed the information to DFG’s Special Operations Unit, which began to investigate. Wardens soon observed Miller harvesting abalone and transporting them to the rear entrance of Pacific Restaurant, 1045 Terra Nova Blvd. in Pacifica. There, Miller was observed selling the illegally taken abalone to the restaurant’s owner, Pim Lim Szeto, 51 of San Francisco. Wardens arrested both subjects for the illegal sale and purchase of abalone.

The Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office began to prosecute the case in October 2009. Szeto was subsequently fined $20,000 and sentenced to 90 days work release time.
His fishing license was revoked for life.

In May 2011, Miller pled guilty to poaching charges. He was fined $15,000 and sentenced to 90 days work release time with three years probation. He was also ordered to forfeit all dive gear and fishing equipment. His fishing licence has been revoked for life and he is prohibited from possessing abalone.

Game Warden Honored 51 Years After Death

Media Contacts:
Capt. Nathaniel Arnold, DFG Law Enforcement, (559) 243-4005, ext. 136
Warden Patrick Foy, DFG Law Enforcement, (916) 651-2084
Kirsten Macintyre, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8988

A California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) warden who died in the line of duty in 1959 is finally receiving the recognition he deserves. Thanks to the efforts of a captain and several staff members in DFG’s Fresno office, Warden Clarence Lester Brown is being honored alongside other fallen California peace officers at two separate services at the California State Capitol in Sacramento, and the Peace Officers Memorial in Fresno. His name will also be added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington D.C.

The 60-year-old game warden, who had worked for DFG for 32 years, was killed in a vehicle accident while on patrol on April 3, 1959. At about 9 p.m., he lost control of his patrol vehicle and plunged to the bottom of a canyon about six miles west of Coalinga on Highway 198. Warden Brown was survived by his wife and two children.

For decades, Warden Brown’s story was lost to history. In May 2010, when staff at DFG’s Fresno offices began an extensive purge of old archived files, an employee found a report detailing Warden Brown’s accident. She gave the file to Capt. Nathaniel Arnold, who realized that the warden’s name was not among those previously known to the Law Enforcement Division as having been killed in the line of duty. When an investigation concluded that Warden Brown had not been properly recognized as a peace officer killed in the line of duty, Capt. Arnold took the necessary steps to formally honor the warden’s sacrifice.

“This has been one of the most fulfilling cases I have had the pleasure of working on and overseeing in my career with the Department,” said Capt. Arnold. “It is time to recognize a fallen officer whose story has been lost for nearly 51 years.”

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Two of Warden Brown’s grandsons, their wives and one great-granddaughter were present in Sacramento on May 2 as Warden Brown became the twenty-first California Game Warden immortalized as a peace officer killed in the line of duty. His name will be added to the honor roll at the California Peace Officers Memorial on Capitol Mall. Warden Brown’s name will also be added to the Fresno County Peace Officers Memorial at a service on May 3, and in the coming weeks, he will be honored at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington D.C.

“These brave wardens and their families can never be repaid for their sacrifice, but they will also never be forgotten,” said Nancy Foley, Chief of the DFG Law Enforcement Division.