Evidence authorities collected during their investigation. Credit: California Department of Fish & Wildlife

Poachers Get Lifetime Hunting Ban for Years-Long Conspiracy

California's head wildlife officer described the “diligent prosecution” as “a message that poaching will not be tolerated.”

A California state court sentenced seven poachers for their involvement in a "sophisticated conspiracy to commit wildlife violations" this week. According to Wednesday's announcement, they received various jail terms as well as a lifetime ban on hunting and fishing.

The group included Martin Bravo Jr., 31; Martin Bravo Sr., 61; Jaime Mendoza Avila, 42; Gilberto Lopez Hernandez, 36; Walfre Lopez Y Lopez, 39; Cristian Lopez Perez, 33; and Juventino Reyes Guererro, 45.

In a statement, Nathaniel Arnold, the acting chief of California's Fish & Wildlife Law Enforcement Division, explained that the men conspired over several years to poach wildlife. He described the "diligent prosecution" as "a message that poaching will not be tolerated."

The investigation began after authorities received a tip about suspected poaching in the Los Padres National Forest by the group.

From there, investigators discovered that the poachers had obtained a "highly unusual" amount of replacement licenses and hunting tags. They discovered that the men had been scheming with a store clerk to acquire additional big game hunting tags. In all, they collected 87 licenses and tags.

When investigators executed search warrants on the men's homes, they seized a host of items. They included taxidermy mounts, several animal skulls, firearms, cockfighting paraphernalia, stolen copper wire, and fraudulent big game tags. Then, investigators discovered additional items at a local taxidermy shop. They included an illegally taken bear and a fraudulent bear tag.

The poachers sign a plea agreement

With the mounting evidence, authorities say that the men signed plea agreements with the Ventura County District Attorney's Office. The men admitted to several felony counts of unlawfully taking wildlife and filing false documents. In exchange, they received 180 to 220 days in jail, a 24-month probation, and loss of hunting and fishing privileges in the state.

Karen Wold, the senior deputy district attorney who prosecuted the case, explained that the court understood the seriousness of the crimes and issued appropriate sentences. "Poaching is a serious crime," she said. "It harms the environment and our precious wildlife."