A massive poaching ring was broken up in Ohio.
Ohio authorities say a 70-year-old man was the head of a massive poaching and racketeering operation that was poaching deer and illegally selling the meat.
Now, a grand jury has indicted him and seven others on 66 charges. If convicted, the group could be facing up to 55 years in prison and restitution and fines totaling an unbelievable $225,000!
This one is really bad and complex. Hear prosecutors of Cuyahoga County talk more about this unbelievable case in the video below.
Cleveland.com reports 70-year-old John Zayac is the head of this poaching ring and his only source of income was from illegally selling deer meat. Zayac organized operations where he, Terrance Ankrom and John Stofan poached 39 deer, 22 of them bucks, between October of 2013 and last February.
Most of the illegal kills came from Broadview Heights, Brecksville and North Royalton on private property.
Stofan is also accused of shooting some of the deer from the back window of his house. He allegedly lured the animals in with a corn feeder before shooting them after dark under a motion sensing light.
While the men didn’t report all of the deer they shot, Cleveland.com reports two women, Zayac’s wife Rebecca Gregerson and Terrance’s wife Tina Ankrom, helped with falsified check-ins of some deer. Sometimes they checked bucks as does. The two women have also been charged in the case.
Two other charged men, John Frost and Craig Steed, are relatives of Zayac. Authorities say their involvement was allowing Zayac and the others to check deer under the names of relatives who didn’t even hunt.
The eighth person charged in this massive poaching ring was Todd Neczeporenko, the owner of a deer processing business in Ashtabula County called Smokin’ T’s.
Zayac allegedly received over 2,000 pounds of meat made into sausage at the business. Meat that was later sold illegally.
Officials caught onto Zayac’s illegal activities and started an investigation called “Operation North Coast” after Zayac bragged to an undercover agent at a bar about the deer he’d shot and sold.
While the investigation centered on the events of the past couple years, Zayac may have been at it even longer than that. Agents confiscated over 50 mounted deer heads from his home and recovered a ledger that allegedly documents illegal deer kills going all the way back to the 1980s.
They also recovered $50,000 in cash and took his pickup truck. Ohio authorities minced no words in describing the actions of the group.
“These are racketeers in camouflage,” said James Guitierrez, Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor.
Poachers be warned: authorities are cracking down nation-wide. A Montana man got an $11,000 fine for poaching a mule deer last fall. In Oregon, at least two high-profile blacktail deer poaching operations were snuffed out earlier this year.
We will keep an eye on this story out of Ohio and give you more updates on these alleged poachers when it happens.