Walleye thieves pleaded guilty

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Lake Erie
Lake Erie by Ken Lund (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://www.flickr.com/photos/kenlund/7992964938)], via Flickr

COLUMBUS — The Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife recently concluded an investigation into reports that Lake Fish Company of Sandusky illegally took walleyes that were supposed to be donated to a Sandusky charity in 2021.

Five defendants pleaded guilty to charges including petty theft, felony theft, receiving stolen property and commercial fish violations after an investigation uncovered that 112 walleyes, one steelhead, one yellow perch, and three whitefish were stolen.

The defendants — Craig Carr, 55, of Oak Harbor; Dale Trent, 59, of Port Clinton; Thelma Towner, 69, of Sandusky; Stanley Swain, 55, of Milan; and Lake Fish Company in Sandusky —  are scheduled to pay a combined $24,120 in restitution to the charitable organization set to receive the stolen fish, and another $13,000 in restitution to the Division of Wildlife. Additionally, the commercial fish processor will have their wholesale fish license suspended for 30 days. Sentencing is scheduled for November.

Case

Many walleye tournaments that occur on Lake Erie donate harvested fish to a local charity organization to support those in need. Additionally, the Division of Wildlife donates walleye caught in regular sampling surveys and those seized as evidence to the same organization. A commercial fish processor is paid to clean donated fish and return the ready-to-cook fillets to the charity.

The Division of Wildlife began investigating Lake Fish Company in 2021 after the agency received a report that donated fish were stolen by the company and its employees. An initial investigation revealed evidence of theft. In November 2021, the Lake Erie law enforcement unit of the Division of Wildlife executed a search warrant and seized video surveillance, fish processing records and fish packages and carcasses.

Anyone who witnesses a wildlife violation in Ohio can call 1-800-POACHER. Reports are kept anonymous.

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