Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

 
 

Feds charge guide Martin: 5 felonies

 


A Haines hunting guide faces $40,000 in fines and permanent revocation of professional guiding privileges after agreeing to plead guilty to federal and state charges.

Ron Martin, 71, signed a 56-page plea agreement with federal attorneys May 1, the same day five felony counts were filed.

The charges involve allegations of illegal wildlife trafficking and falsification of hunting records in Canada and Alaska.

Martin faces additional misdemeanor charges brought by the state of Alaska.

According to court documents, a May 2010 joint investigation involving Alaska Wildlife Troopers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service revealed Ron Martin’s Guiding Services was conducting illegal guided hunts of big game in Haines.

The investigation found that between 2002 and 2011, Martin and numerous clients illegally took at least 10 brown bears, three black bears and four mountain goats, with the hunts valued between $135,000 and $189,000.

Martin also allegedly submitted erroneous bear-sealing certificates and guide hunting records to the state, which falsely reported the locations of where bears were killed during guided hunts, the amount of meat salvaged from goats, and the guide who was with the client during the guided hunts.

The five charges are all related to the Lacey Act, a federal law which prohibits trade in wildlife and plants that are illegally taken, transported or sold.

Martin declined to comment for this story Wednesday.

On May 20, state prosecutors leveled two misdemeanor charges against Martin for using unregistered bait sites and helping a Canadian client illegally shoot a brown bear. Part of the federal deal stipulates Martin will plead guilty to the state charges, as well.

Assistant U.S. attorney Jack Schmidt said there are different benefits to filing state and federal charges, as the feds can’t revoke guiding and hunting licenses issued by the state.

“The federal government doesn’t issue licenses. During a period of probation, we can prohibit people from doing anything, but we can’t deny people licenses and we can’t take any action on licenses issued by states,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt said it’s his understanding that according to a deal made with state prosecutors, Martin’s guide license will be revoked permanently. “There is a provision that (Martin) has with the state of Alaska, and it’s my assumption based on that agreement that he will not be allowed to guide again,” Schmidt said.

According to the Big Game Commercial Services Board database, Martin was first issued a guiding license in 1999. His last license was issued in March 2010 and expired in December 2011. He was first issued an assistant guiding license in 1973.

Under the deal, Martin also agrees to forfeit items seized during the state and federal investigations. Schmidt said

Martin will be forfeiting his Piper Super Cub airplane, a trailer, and other equipment, including vehicles and firearms.

Federal prosecutors are recommending Martin be sentenced to three years of probation and a $40,000 fine. Prosecutors also will ask that Martin be confined to Haines for a portion of that probation, but for no more than eight months of the three years.

The agreement also recommends Martin be banned from hunting worldwide for two years and in the United States for three.

“It is a recommendation being made to the court. The court has the ultimate decision whether to accept or reject them,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt would not say whether Martin’s employees, implicated in the court documents, would be charged with any violations.

The 56-page plea agreement and other court documents meticulously detail Martin’s activities over the course of the

investigation. Around April 2011, Martin flew an undercover federal agent posing as a client to an unregistered bait site named Turtle Rock, where he illegally baited the site with dog food and grease.

Other unregistered sites Martin allegedly used included Harry’s Hole (above the Wells Bridge) and spots near the Chilkat Lake airstrip and 19 Mile Haines Highway. He illegally baited the sites with dog food, grease, moose bones, fish carcasses, and jugs of expired condiments.

Martin also allegedly killed a Dall Sheep in Canada, failed to plug its horns or file a kill report with the Yukon Territory government, and declared he was only importing moose meat when he transported the horns into Alaska at the Dalton Cache border.

Martin is scheduled for a change of plea hearing on May 31. Though Martin should plead according to the agreement, he technically can change his mind if he wants to, Schmidt said.

A sentencing hearing will be set if the plea agreement is accepted by the court, Schmidt said.

Assistant Attorney General Arne Soldwedel, the prosecuting attorney for the state charges, did not return multiple calls for comment.

According to statute, a Lacey Act violation carries a penalty of up to five years imprisonment, a maximum $250,000 fine, three years of supervised release, and a $100 mandatory special assessment.

The misdemeanor state charges, according to statute, carry a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $10,000 fine.

The investigation came to light in November 2011 when a team of lawmen descended on Haines, seizing vehicles, computers and other equipment used in Martin’s operation.