Pine Hill Meats owners guilty of wildlife violations; get probation, fines

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SALEM, Ohio – The owners of Pine Hill Meats pleaded guilty Dec. 12 to eight wildlife violations and were ordered to pay the Ohio Division of Wildlife $6,000 in restitution for illegally buying and selling white-tailed deer meat.

Fines

John W. Schneider, 57, was fined $2,500, sentenced to 180 days in jail with all but five days suspended. He was placed on 55 days of house arrest and three years of probation by Columbiana County Municipal Court Judge Carol Ann Robb.

Special conditions of his house arrest allow Schneider to harvest wood weekdays. According to Department of Natural Resources law enforcement officer Doug Miller, Schneider said in court his butcher shop has gone out of business since the raid.

Calls to Pine Hill Meats Dec. 14 indicated the phone there had been disconnected.

Joanne Schneider, 51, was fined $500 and placed on three years of probation. Together, both Schneiders must pay an additional $6,000 in restitution to the state for the commercialized deer meat.

The Schneiders are accused of selling and buying deer that were not tagged, and failing to maintain records listing who killed the deer, when it was killed, and who brought it in.

A year coming

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ undercover investigation into the Schneiders’ Pine Hill Meats started more than a year ago.

The investigation came to fruition after hunters and customers tipped off the department through anonymous calls to its poacher tip line.

The Schneiders were arrested Nov. 15 during a morning raid at the processing plant.

Forfeited

During the raid, officers seized at least one firearm, deer meat and parts, hooks, grinders, saws, cutting tables and records from the shop off Mountz Road near Minerva.

Also taken were at least five skinned carcasses and other cuts of meat in various stages of processing that appeared to have been taken illegally, according to state wildlife officer Reno Reda.

All items related to the illegal activities, including processing and butchering equipment, were ordered forfeited to the Division of Wildlife.

Doug Miller said the equipment seized may be used in-house or that there “could very well be a public auction on the butcher equipment.”

Miller also said the 900 pounds of meat seized will be examined and, if suitable, will be donated to food banks.

The department is also required by Ohio Revised Code to provide the Schneiders copies of all documents seized in the raid for tax purposes, Miller said.

Drug charges

During the November raid, the Columbiana County sheriff also arrested an employee, Steven Ratliff, after officers discovered drugs and drug paraphernalia at the business.

Court docket entries show Ratliff is charged with drug abuse and is scheduled for a preliminary court hearing Dec. 21.

The Schneiders are also facing felony drug charges stemming from the raid.

Related coverage:

Undercover sting nets arrests at Pine Hill Meats Nov. 23, 2006

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