We ran across some rumblings in the sporting press this week about a couple of good ol’ boys with deer breeding ranches in Ohio and Florida who got popped for selling bucks across state lines.
Indeed. The facts of the case reveal a bloated American model of crime and punishment fueled by commerce. It seems Donald Wainwright and his son ran breeding farms in Ohio and Florida. Last year, the pair were indicted for fraudulently labeling their deers as disease-free.
In the latest prosecution, Benjamin Chason of Georgia has agreed to pay $1.6 million in connection to the deer trafficking scheme, amounting to the largest sum for a wildlife crime in US history.
And how was Chason largely able to pay for the offense? Wait for it… he won the lottery.
That’s right, in 2006 Chason won $96.4 million in the Georgia Lottery, making him the largest single winner in the state’s history. Now that’s two records for this man if you’re keeping score. Why he got into the deer breeding business we can only guess.
Chason apparently helped the Wainwrights ship live deer from their ranch in Logan County, Ohio to a hunting preserve in Florida called Valley View Whitetails. Normally that might be alright, but the only problem was that the deer were not certified as disease free. For this, the pair made some creative moves.
Based on an indictment last year of the Wainwrights, the pair purchased a live trophy-sized whitetail deer named “Little Moose” in 2009 for $20,000, which was not certified as disease-free. They apparently then fraudulently attached a tag from a dead deer, which was in fact certified. They then sold breeding services and semen from Little Moose all over the country. They also illegally transported moose from Ohio to Florida and allowed unlicensed hunts, according to reports.
Federal officials were onto the scheme when they stopped a truck load of deer on the highway one day and started asking questions.
So why is this such a problem? The US Fish and Wildlife Services says that deer could have chronic wasting disease, tuberculosis and brucellosis that endangers both wild and captive herds. And for this reason federal law requires disease-free certification.
The nut of the matter is that new money makes people do strange and grand things. So does old money, we suppose. But it’s a safe bet that the lottery money Chason was sitting on gave him the fortitude to run such an over-the top scheme. Normally, such a crime might be treated with some jail time or maybe some sort of monetary slap on the wrist. But this one was different.
Clearly the judge knew Chason was good for it. In fact, The defendant paid it all. His winnings after taxes were $66 million, so the fine must have been similar to a speeding ticket.
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