Father and son sentenced for trafficking deer in Ohio

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Deer on trail.
Deer on a hiking trail.

(Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

COLUMBUS — A father and son from Florida have been sentenced to prison and house arrest, for deer trafficking and illegal hunting practices in Ohio.

Donald W. Wainwright Sr., 49, of Live Oak, Fla., was sentenced Aug. 3, in U.S. District Court to 21 months in prison and a $125,000 fine for 12 charges related to violating the Lacey Act, one count of conspiracy and one count of wire fraud.

His son, Donald W. Wainwright Jr., 29, of Live Oak, Fla., was sentenced to four months of house arrest and three years of probation for eight charges related to violating the Lacey Act.

Federal and state officials, including Carter Stewart, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, and Chief Scott Zody, Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife, announced the sentences handed down by U.S. District Court, Southern District of Ohio.

According to court documents, the co-conspirators trafficked live white-tailed deer from Ohio, and also conducted illegal hunts at their preserves.

Donald Wainwright Sr. owned hunting preserves in Logan County, Ohio, and Live Oak, Florida; both preserves were named Valley View Whitetails.

Wainwright Jr. was part-time resident and part-time operator of the site in Ohio.

Illegal shipments

His father illegally shipped deer to Florida from Ohio, and attempted to ship deer to Georgia from Ohio. The deer herds involved with these shipments were not certified to be free from chronic wasting disease, tuberculosis and brucellosis.

Federal Law requires interstate shipment of deer to be certified to be disease free. As a result, deer herds in Florida were potentially exposed to these diseases. His attempted shipment to Georgia was intercepted on I-71 South, about 50 miles from the Ohio River, when Ohio wildlife officers noticed deer noses and antlers inside a cargo trailer and pulled over a truck driven by Wainwright Sr.’s employees.

“Trophy-sized white-tailed deer can sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars apiece if the animals come from herds that have been certified by government agricultural officials to be free from disease,” U.S. Attorney Stewart said. “Farmers are intensely interested in the disease status of white-tailed deer herds because their diseases can be transmitted to cattle and humans with potentially fatal results.”

Reusing tags

Wainwright Sr. placed federal identification tags from a certified deer that had previously died into the ear of uncertified deer they were selling. He then sold breeding services and semen from the deer to breeders around the United States.

Illegal hunting

The defendants also sold illegal white-tailed deer hunts at Valley View Whitetails of Ohio. They induced clients from around the country to hunt at Valley View Whitetails of Ohio — charging customers from $1,000 to $50,000 to kill deer inside his high fence preserve when Wainwright did not have a hunting preserve license.
The customers then took the bucks back to their home states, including Florida, Michigan, Alabama and Virginia.

“Chronic wasting disease can decimate wild deer and elk populations and we take egregious violations like this very seriously,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent in Charge Gregory Jackson.

Pleaded guilty

Wainwright Sr. pleaded guilty Feb. 27, to 12 charges related to violating the Lacey Act, one count of conspiracy and one count of wire fraud. He was also sentenced to 200 hours of community service, to be served in a parks system and ordered to publish an article in The Deer Breeders Gazette.

Wainwright Jr. pleaded guilty Feb. 17, to eight charges related to violating the Lacey Act.

Under the Lacey Act, it is unlawful to import, export, transport, sell or purchase wildlife, fish or plants that were taken, possessed, transported or sold in violation of a state, federal or foreign law. When it was passed in 1900, the Lacey Act became the first federal law protecting wildlife.

Other officials working on the case included Special Assistant United States Attorney Heather Robinson, with the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office, and Assistant United States Attorneys Peter Glenn-Applegate and J. Michael Marous, who are representing the United States in this case.

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