Category Archives: Law Enforcement

Humboldt Deputy District Attorney Honored for Protecting Natural Resources

Humboldt County Deputy District Attorney Adrian Kamada has been selected as the 2017 Wildlife Prosecutor of the Year, the California Fish and Game Commission and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced.

The California Fish and Game Commission recognizes a courtroom champion of fish and wildlife each year. The Prosecutor of the Year award honors a currently seated district attorney or deputy district attorney who tirelessly prosecutes crimes against fish, wildlife, natural resources and the environment in California courts.

“CDFW’s Law Enforcement Division is grateful for Deputy District Attorney Kamada’s service, exceptional effort and leadership on poaching and environmental crime prosecutions,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of Law Enforcement. “We hold him up as an example to others.”

FG Commission Prosecutor of the Year 2018 (1 of 1)

Kamada began working at the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office in 2014, assigned as the lead prosecutor on all environmental cases for the county. Kamada, who was raised in Humboldt, appreciates and understands the importance of the county’s diverse fish and wildlife species and the habitats upon which they depend.

In 2015, Kamada formed the Humboldt County Environmental Crimes Task Force, a group of state and local agency representatives that meets several times a year to address ongoing environmental crimes, promote interagency communication and problem solving. Task Force members are encouraged to speak directly with Kamada about cases. Kamada has also frequently accompanied CDFW wildlife officers on general patrol and on search warrant services.

Kamada has shown considerable skill and commitment in prosecuting a wide variety of fish, wildlife and environmental crime cases, including the following:

  • In 2015, wildlife officers contacted a man near the Eel River after observing him driving on a river bar while shining a high-powered light and discarding litter on the river bar. A search warrant served on the subject’s residence led to the discovery of evidence of spotlighting and poaching activity. Following the successful prosecution of the case by Kamada, the suspect was sentenced to three years of probation and 200 hours of community service, as well as being prohibited from hunting, mandated to complete the hunter safety program and forfeiting three firearms, ammunition, knives and unlawfully possessed deer parts.
  • Working with the Humboldt County Environmental Crimes Task Force, Kamada has successfully prosecuted egregious violations of various Fish and Game and Health and Safety Code laws associated with marijuana cultivation. He ensures that mandated property restoration work is included in court dispositions and then follows up – in some cases personally – to confirm the work was indeed completed.
  • Kamada prosecuted a poacher who attempted to shoot a wildlife officer, resulting in a 20-year prison sentence for the shooter. The incident occurred in 2016, when an officer came across a pickup truck whose occupants were spotlighting deer in a remote area of Humboldt County. When the officer attempted a traffic stop, one of the occupants began shooting from the bed of the truck while the driver sped away. During the course of the pursuit, 10 shots were fired at the officer. The truck eventually crashed and the suspects fled into the woods on foot, evading immediate capture. In August 2017, after many months of investigation and surveillance, the suspect who shot at the officer turned himself in.
  • In 2018, Kamada prosecuted an unusual case involving largescale poaching of Dudleya, a succulent plant that grows in a unique ecological niche along the Humboldt County coastline. The suspects were foreign nationals who poached 2,300 Dudleya for sale overseas. Kamada dedication to the case ultimately led to felony convictions on conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor and false filing with the state, as well as misdemeanor convictions for removal of plant material from public lands and commercial sales of those plants.

Commission President Eric Sklar also offers high praise for Kamada’s efforts, noting, “Without strong prosecutors such as Deputy District Attorney Kamada, our natural resources would be at increased risk. We thank him for his important work and his commitment to safeguarding California’s biodiversity for the future.”

Media Contacts:
Valerie Termini, California Fish and Game Commission, (916) 653-4899
Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 651-6692

 

Plentiful Fishing for Crappie Proves Tempting for Poachers

Wildlife Officers Keeping a Close Eye Out for Overlimits

Law enforcement officers from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) have made several recent gross overlimit cases on crappie anglers in the San Joaquin Valley, prompting increased patrols for anglers targeting those fish. Crappie is a sport fish common throughout California and most of North America. The bag limit for crappie is 25 fish per day.

In one case, a wildlife officer contacted three anglers in Madera County in the early morning hours of April 12 as they pulled their boat from a local lake. They were in combined possession of 404 crappie. Subtracting out a legal limit of 25 fish each, they were in possession of a combined overlimit of 329 crappie. The three subjects are charged with a gross overlimit of crappie, possession of more than three times the bag limit and failure to show catch upon the demand of a wildlife officer. If convicted, they each face a possible jail term, fines that will potentially range between $5,000 and $40,000, forfeiture of seized fishing equipment and suspension of their fishing privileges,

In total, wildlife officers issued a total of 10 crappie overlimit citations in the last week for 636 crappie in excess of the bag limit.

“We are pleased to see excellent conditions for crappie fishing right now and many honest anglers are catching a limit,” said CDFW Assistant Chief John Baker, who oversees the Central Enforcement District out of Fresno. “These gross overlimit cases are a prime example of poachers taking advantage of good conditions and depleting our state’s limited resources. This behavior should outrage the honest anglers who abide by the law.”

Anyone who believes they are witness to unlawful poaching or pollution activity is encouraged to call CalTIP, CDFW’s confidential secret witness program, at (888) 334-2258 or send a text to tip411. Both methods allow the public to provide wildlife officers with factual information to assist with investigations. Callers may remain anonymous, if desired, and a reward can result from successful capture and prosecution.

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Media Contacts:
Capt. Danny Stevenson, CDFW Law Enforcement, (559) 967-4511
Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 651-6692

Recreational Salmon Seasons Set for 2018

The recreational salmon seasons have been set for 2018, and it appears to be a mixture of good news and bad for California anglers. Klamath River fall run Chinook are likely to be one of the better fishing opportunities due to higher returns that will support both ocean and inland salmon seasons. But returns for Sacramento River fall run Chinook – the main stock of salmon supporting California’s ocean and Central Valley river fisheries – have been low for the third consecutive year, pushing them into “overfished” status.

In order to meet conservation goals for Sacramento River fall run Chinook, some ocean salmon seasons have been shortened and the daily bag and possession limits for Central Valley river fisheries have been reduced.

“The goal is to get even more fish back to the spawning grounds this fall than would be required in a normal year,” said California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Fisheries Branch Chief Kevin Shaffer.

In an effort to hasten the rebuilding process, the Pacific Fishery Management Council constructed conservative ocean salmon seasons for 2018, in the hopes of producing higher numbers of returning spawners. The California Fish and Game Commission set similar ocean seasons.

The 2018 recreational ocean salmon season for the California coast is as follows:

  • In the Klamath Management Zone, which is the area between the Oregon/California border and Horse Mountain (40°05’00” N. latitude), the season will open June 1 and continue through Sept. 3.
  • The Fort Bragg and San Francisco areas, which extend from Horse Mountain to Point Arena (38°57’30” N. latitude) and Point Arena to Pigeon Point (37°11’00” N. latitude), respectively, will open June 17 and continue through Oct. 31.
  • The Monterey area between Pigeon Point and the U.S./Mexico border opened on April 7 and will continue through July 2.

The minimum size limit is 20 inches total length in all areas north of Pigeon Point and 24 inches in all areas south of Pigeon Point. The daily bag limit is two Chinook salmon per day. No more than two daily bag limits may be possessed when on land. On a vessel in ocean waters, no person shall possess or bring ashore more than one daily bag limit. Retention of coho salmon (also known as silver salmon) is prohibited in all ocean fisheries off California.

The 2018 recreational inland salmon season for California inland waters is as follows:

  • Seasons for Central Valley fishery start on traditional dates on all sections of all rivers. Only one salmon per day may be retained and the possession limit is two salmon.
  • In the Klamath River the season will open Aug. 15 and continue through Dec. 31. The Trinity River season will be open from Sept. 1 through Dec. 31. The daily bag limit is two salmon no more than one over 22 inches. The possession limit is six salmon, no more than three over 22 inches.

Regulations approved by the Commission since the 2017 season created a positive effect for the upcoming Central Valley salmon season. The new regulations – including a complete closure of Nimbus Basin on the American River to all fishing due to construction, a reduction in the daily bag and possession limit for the Central Valley, and a shortened leader length regulation intended to reduce snagging – were pivotal in setting seasons on the Sacramento River fall Chinook because they helped reduced potential harvest to meet stock rebuilding goals.

The 2018 sport seasons, dates, locations and bag limits will be published in the 2018-2019 Sport Fishing Regulations Supplement, which will be posted on the CDFW website in May. Additional season information can be found on CDFW’s ocean salmon webpage or by calling CDFW’s ocean salmon hotline at (707) 576-3429 or the Klamath-Trinity River hotline at (800) 564-6479.

Media Contacts:
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8958
Kandice Morgenstern, CDFW Ocean Salmon Project, (707) 576-2879
Roger Bloom, CDFW Fisheries Branch, (916) 445-3777

CDFW Wildlife Officers Arrest Three for Poaching Succulents in Humboldt County

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officers have made another arrest this week in their ongoing battle against a rising poaching trend on the north coast of northern California with international connections.

CDFW arrested Taehun Kim, 52, and Taeyun Kim, 46, both of Korea, and Liu Fengxia, 37, of China for poaching over 2,300 Dudleya succulent plants near Trinidad in Humboldt County. Charges include illegal take of the plants and felony conspiracy, among others.

Poachers profit financially from the illegal take of Dudleya by stripping plants from sea cliffs and shipping them overseas to other countries, including Korea, China and Japan, where they are prized by some for decorative purposes. On April 4, wildlife officers intercepted and seized 1,334 of the plants in boxes on their way to be shipped overseas. An additional 1,000 Dudleya were found in the suspects’ hotel room during the service of the search warrant. The overseas market value of the plants is between $40 to $50 per plant, resulting in a conservative value estimate of over $90,000.

The removal of Dudleya can result in environmental degradation of habitat and a destabilization of bluffs and cliffs on the coastline. Illegal harvesting is also alarming because California hosts a number of Dudleya species and subspecies that are rare or at risk of extinction.

CDFW enforcement initially identified this trend earlier this year, in part, after determining that a man was shipping Dudleya out of a Mendocino post office to China.

In recent months near Point Arena, Mendocino County, wildlife officers cited three individuals for a series of misdemeanor violations including illegal take and trespassing. The charges were elevated by the Mendocino District Attorney to felony conspiracy and grand theft, based upon the value of stolen plants.

On Jan. 29, one man was apprehended with approximately 50 succulents, and on March 6, two men were cited after being apprehended with 1,400 succulents. The individual in the January incident pleaded guilty to the illegal take of plants and received a sentence that included three years of probation, a $5,000 fine and 240 hours of community service. The March case is pending.

“We have seen a remarkable amount of concern over this from botanists and the public alike,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of Law Enforcement. “A public tip started this investigation and ultimately uncovered an international conspiracy to poach Dudleya succulents and ship them overseas for profit. A critical part of the Department’s mission is to protect and manage California’s diverse fish, wildlife and plant resources, and the habitats upon which they depend, for their ecological values and for their use and enjoyment by the public.”

Law enforcement personnel from the U.S. Postal Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and East Bay Regional Parks, in addition to representatives of the California Native Plant Society (CNPS), U.C. Santa Cruz Botany Department and local citizens, assisted with the investigation. CDFW personnel have replanted the seized succulents in the areas where taken whenever possible with assistance from CNPS and U.C. Santa Cruz botany experts.

Anyone who believes they are witness to unlawful poaching or pollution activity is encouraged to call CalTIP, CDFW’s confidential secret witness program, at (888) 334-2258 or send a text to tip411. Both methods allow the public to provide wildlife officers with factual information to assist with investigations. Callers may remain anonymous, if desired, and a reward can result from successful capture and prosecution.

Media Contacts:
Capt. John Lawson, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 804-8195
Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 651-6692

Ivory Sales Lead to a Conviction in Los Angeles County

ivory figurines
Ivory figurines confiscated in the Los Angeles County case. (CDFW photo)

A Los Angeles County jury has convicted a 48-year-old man on misdemeanor charges of selling elephant ivory. Oleg N. Chakov was found guilty on April 3 in Los Angeles County Superior Court, and sentenced to 10 days in county jail in lieu of a $5,000 fine, three years probation and 30 days of community service. He is also prohibited from possessing ivory and all evidence from the case was forfeited to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). The penalty was set pursuant to Fish and Game Code, section 2022, which took effect on July 1, 2016.

The investigation began in March 2017, when wildlife officers from CDFW’s Trafficking Unit saw several ivory statues advertised for sale online. Officers emailed the seller and asked to meet to look at and possibly purchase the ivory statues.

Chakov told officers he worked at the Durant City Library on Sunset Boulevard and requested they meet there to conduct the sale. Chakov brought nine ivory statues to the meeting, offering to sell them for $3,000. He ultimately sold two of the statues to the undercover officers for $800.

The nine ivory statues were seized as evidence and sent to the CDFW Wildlife Forensics Lab for additional analysis. The Forensics Lab staff was able to positively identify several of the statues as proboscidean ivory (African elephant, Asian elephant, mammoth or mastodon).

“We would like to thank the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office 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 elephants in their native range.”

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. 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.

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Media Contact:
Lt. Steve Stiehr, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 217-9206
Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 651-6692