Illegal Deer Breeding Operation fined $1.5 Million

In what is arguably the most costly fine and restitution order ever handed down in a case involving illegal deer transportation and breeding, a 77-year-old Cherokee County, TX man has agreed to pay a $1 million fine, to be deposited into the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Lacy Act Reward Fund, as well as $500,000 in restitution to Texas Parks and Wildlife.

Billy Powell yesterday pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the East Texas District to illegally transporting at least 37 whitetail deer into Texas from game farms in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, in violation of state and federal statutes.

Yesterday's plea ended a lengthy four-year investigation conducted by the Special Operations Unit of the Texas Parks and Wildlife and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Noble.

According to information presented in court, on at least four separate occasions, from October 2006 through June 2008, Powell knowingly imported at least 37 live whitetails, many from captive deer farms in Ligonier, Indiana, into the state of Texas and to his "5-P Farms," high-fenced deer breeding facility in Cherokee County. Investigators found that while Powell knew that Texas law prohibited any person from possessing a deer acquired from an out-of-state source, he agreed to participate in transactions in which deer would be secretly transported from Illinois, Indiana and Pennsylvania, to Texas in order to evade Texas laws and regulations.

In his testimony, Powell acknowledged that the fair market value of all of the illegally imported deer exceeded approximately $800,000, that the value of the illegally deer semen exceeded approximately $961,000, and that the value of the offspring exceeded approximately $290,000.

Powell further admitted that he lied to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Special Agent during a voluntary statement at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Tyler, TX.

In addition to the $1.5 million in fines and restitution to be assessed on his sentencing date, Powell will serve 3 years probation with six months of home confinement, which will be monitored with an electric anklet. During the term of probation, Powell will be prohibited from participating in any manner of commercial deer breeding.

Further, he agreed to forfeit any illegally imported deer, any offspring of those deer, and any biological material derived from the deer, which would include any semen, antlers, mounts, and cloned deer.

Powell has already forfeited more than 1,300 straws of frozen semen valued at approximately $961,500 to U.S. Fish and Wildlife.