Three Louisiana men and a Slidell company they owned and represented were sentenced Thursday in a federal court in Gulfport on violations of the Lacey Act for illegally importing white-tailed deer into Mississippi.
The penalties included $1.5 million in restitution to the state.
Ronald W. Reine, 67, Brian R. Reine, 44, Bruce A. Swilley Jr., 27, and Omni Pinnacle, LLC, all of Slidell, La., had all entered guilty pleas earlier, according to U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Davis.
Special Agent in Charge Luis Santiago of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and Director of Investigations Robert Oliveri with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks (MDWFP) represented the enforcement agencies involved.
“The importation of white-tailed deer into Mississippi is a violation of both state and federal law and that this sentence should act as a deterrent to others who might consider importing white-tailed deer into the state,” Oliveri said after the following sentences were announced.
* Brian Reine, who previously pled guilty to the felony offense of importing white-tailed deer, was sentenced to nine months in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons and two years of supervised release.
* Ronald Reine, Brian’s father, who previously pled guilty to the misdemeanor offense of importing white-tailed deer, was sentenced to three years of probation, six months home confinement and a $10,000 fine.
* Bruce Swilley, who previously pled guilty to the misdemeanor offense of importing white-tailed deer, was sentenced to three years of probation, nine months home confinement and a $10,000 fine.
* Their closely held corporation, Omni Pinnacle, LLC, pled guilty to a felony and was sentenced to five years of probation.
* All defendants were ordered to pay restitution to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks in the amount of $1.5 million. Each defendant forfeited all interest in the white-tailed deer, a truck used to transport the deer to Mississippi and a deer breeding facility.
Late in 2012, the USFWS and MDWFP began a joint investigation into the illegal importation of live white-tailed deer into the state of Mississippi.
Omni Pinnacle, a corporation based in Slidell, along with Ronald Reine and Swilley, conspired to import the white-tailed deer onto their property in Lamar County and Pearl River County.
Between 2009 and 2012, enforcement officials said at least nine shipments of white-tailed deer, with a value exceeding $100,000, were released onto their property known as Half Moon Ranch and Hunter’s Bluff.
Importing live white-tailed deer and falsifying records is a violation of state and federal law. Officials say the laws are needed to protect the state’s native deer herd since importing live deer can introduce Chronic Wasting Disease, as well as exposing livestock to bovine tuberculosis and bovine brucellosis.
In addition, the importation of white-tailed deer represents a great danger to Mississippi’s hunting heritage and to the $900 million annual economic benefit white-tailed deer provide to the state.
“The Department of Justice is committed to enforcing the Lacey Act and other federal laws to protect our wildlife resources,” Davis said. “This office will continue to work closely with (wildlife enforcement officials) to enforce the Lacey Act. It is my hope that the $1.5 million payment in restitution will help mitigate any damage done by these defendants and send a strong message that the illegal importation of white tail deer into our State will not be tolerated.”
Santiago said USFWS officials “take our mission of working with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks and the citizens of Mississippi in conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats very seriously. We will continue working vigorously investigating those who choose to violate state and federal laws.”