Monterey couple sentenced for felony violations of the Lacey Act

United States Attorney David C. Joseph announced that a couple from Monterey, Louisiana, was sentenced in federal court in Shreveport on July 23, 2020, to three years of federal probation for felony Lacey Act violations in relation to illegally operating a woodcock guide service on the Richard K. Yancey Wildlife Management Area (WMA). The Suttons pleaded guilty on Aug. 19, 2019.

Senior U.S. District Judge Dee D. Drell ordered William Sutton to pay a $5,000 fine and Karen Sutton to pay a $1,000 fine. Judge Drell also ordered the couple to pay $7,850 in restitution to the Richard K. Yancey WMA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Office of Law Enforcement.

The Suttons were named in a federal indictment for conspiracy and Lacey Act violations in March of 2019 after agents with the USFWS completed a successful criminal investigation of their woodcock guide service.

Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) enforcement agents cited William Sutton during the previous hunting season, but the Suttons continued their illicit activity. The investigation culminated with joint search warrant executions by USFWS and LDWF agents at the Sutton’s residence and hunting lodge.

The investigation yielded evidence indicating the Suttons had conducted approximately 82 illegal hunts over a two-year period netting an estimated monetary gain of over $100,000.

The Lacey Act is a comprehensive federal law that protects against wildlife crimes such as international and domestic wildlife trafficking. The Act prohibits trade in wildlife, fish, and plants that have been taken, possessed, transported or sold in violation of other federal, state, or foreign laws.

USFWS Acting Special Agent in Charge Stephen Clark stated, “We take our mission working with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the citizens of Louisiana in conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats very seriously. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement considers the illegal commercialization of wildlife resources a high priority, and we will continue to work closely with our State partners to assist them in these important investigations.”

“This is a great example of federal and state agencies working together to protect Louisiana’s wonderful natural resources. This couple was stealing from the citizens of Louisiana and justice was served,” said LDWF Enforcement Division Col. Chad Hebert.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian C. Flanagan prosecuted the case.