Two men from Mississippi and another from Texas face charges related to the illegal importation of live white-tailed deer into Mississippi, U.S. Attorney Gregory Davis announced Tuesday.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Parker set a trial date of June 20 in Hattiesburg for Virgil Slade, 70, of Purvis, Dewayne Slade, 44, of Purvis and Don Durrett, 72 of Aspermont, Texas, for various violations of the Lacy Act related to the importation of deer from Texas to Mississippi. 

Durrett and Dwayne Slade were arraigned Tuesday and entered pleas of not guilty to the seven-count federal indictment. Virgil Slade will be arraigned at a later date.

According to the indictment, from January of 2009 through December of 2012, the Slades and Durrett did knowingly and willfully conspire to purchase and transport in interstate commerce live white-tailed deer from Texas to Mississippi in violation of both state and federal laws. 

Mississippi law makes it unlawful to import live white-tailed deer, under regulations established by the state’s Commission on Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks to prevent introduction of diseases like chronic wasting disease. Once limited to the Rocky Mountain states and the upper Midwest, the disease has been spreading south. It has been detected recently in Missouri and Arkansas.

If convicted, each defendant faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each individual count.

“The Department of Justice is committed to enforcing the Lacey Act and other federal laws to protect our wildlife resources,” Davis said. 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent in Charge Luis Santiago said his agency worked with state wildlife officials in making the case.

“We take our mission 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,” Santiago said. “We will continue working vigorously investigating those who choose to violate state and federal laws."

Enforcement officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks investigated the case.

This is the second case brought by Davis in two years involving illegal import of deer into Mississippi. In 2014, three Slidell, La., men plead guilty to numerous charges. One went to jail and the others were sentenced to house arrest. They were also ordered to pay $1.5 million in restitution to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.