The California Department of Fish and Wildlife made a poaching bust with a little help from YouTube in May, and the man caught has now been sentenced to 16 months after pleading no contest to a glut of crimes including violation of the terms of his probation.
The CDFW reported in a post on social media that the case started when a conservation officer was watching hunting videos on YouTube. The officer recognized one of the hunters as 40-year-old Sign Lee of Fresno. The big issue was Lee was seen carrying a rifle while deer hunting in the video. Lee is a convicted felon and is prohibited from possessing firearms. His prior convictions were for domestic abuse, and he was on felony probation at the time the video was shot. Authorities also found additional photos on social media showing Lee and two bucks. In the photos, a rifle was clearly present. When they checked their records, the CDFW found Lee had reported the harvest of the two deer during the 2019 season.
The discovery of the video and photos quickly prompted an investigation and compliance check on Lee's home by Fresno County Probation, the Fresno County Adult Compliance Team, and CDFW. It didn't take long for law enforcement to find two rifles, including the bolt-action one Lee was seen carrying in the video. The second rifle was an AR-15 with no serial number, make, or model present. Authorities also discovered it was an unregistered short barrel rifle (SBR). The two guns were enough for Lee to be hit with charges for being a felon in possession of firearm, and possession of an "assault weapon." Although they also located rifle cartridges and shotgun shells.
Adding to the case for CDFW was the discovery of the mount of one of the bucks seen in the photos posted during the 2019 season. Lee had left the deer tag still attached. When confronted with this evidence, he admitted to a different crime altogether.
"Lee recanted on his 2019 deer harvest reports and admitted to wildlife officers he did not harvest the two bucks with a rifle," a CDFW Facebook post reads. "He told wildlife officers he unlawfully transferred his deer tags to someone else who did not have deer tags at the time."
The discovery of the deer mount and his admission were enough for authorities to tack on unlawful possession and unlawful transfer of a deer tag to the list of charges. Lee was officially sentenced on May 3. There was no word on charges for the person who received the illegally transferred tags. The CDFW did state the deer and firearms have been permanently seized by the state.
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