—By California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Five poachers were recently convicted and sentenced in Lake County for illegally spotlighting and killing deer, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Lake County District Attorney’s Office announced on Tuesday.
On August 24, 2013, Lake County Wildlife Officers conducted a night patrol targeting those who use bright lights to shine at and then kill deer at night, an illegal activity commonly called spotlighting. Warden-pilots from CDFW’s Air Services assisted by providing overhead surveillance.
Just after midnight, the warden-pilots noticed spotlighting near Lucerne. Using night vision, they observed occupants of a vehicle shoot and kill two animals. The men walked up to the two dead animals, and then turned around, walked back to the vehicle and drove away, leaving the carcasses to waste. The men continued using the spotlight as they drove around that night. Wildlife officers on the ground responded and detained five occupants from the suspect vehicle. They found multiple firearms and a spotlight plugged into the cigarette lighter. When they returned to the site where the warden-pilots saw the shooting, they found two freshly killed does.Lake County Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff, who supervises the prosecution of poaching and pollution crimes, filed charges against all five suspects, including conspiracy, spotlighting, wanton waste of game and other related charges.
On Dec. 10, Alfonso Ochoa, from Petaluma, and Alfonso Magana-Torres, from Gardena, entered no contest pleas to spotlighting and wanton waste of game. They were each ordered by Judge Andrew Blum to pay $1,155 in fines, sentenced to three years’ probation, including no hunting and no firearm possession for three years, and ordered to forfeit a Remington .308 rifle and Browning handgun for destruction. In addition, Ochoa was ordered to serve 30 days jail.
Also on Dec. 10, Arturo Villanueva-Gomez, from Fairfield, entered a no-contest plea to spotlighting and was sentenced to three years’ probation, no hunting for three years, and was ordered to pay a $1,155 fine and forfeit a Remington .30-06 rifle for destruction.
On Jan. 14, Jose Alberto Rodriguez, from Englewood, entered a no-contest plea to spotlighting and was sentenced to three years’ probation, no hunting for three years, and ordered to pay a $1,155 fine and forfeit a .30-06 rifle.
On Feb. 4, Jaime Rodriguez, from Lennox, entered a no-contest plea to spotlighting and was sentenced to three years’ probation and three years no hunting. Rodriguez was also ordered to pay a $1,155 fine and to forfeit for destruction a .357 Magnum Rossi pistol and a backpack.
Hinchcliff recognized the effort of Lake County Superior Court Judge Andrew Blum for each of the five cases, plus other local judges who are willing to impose tough sentences on violators.
“Without the cooperation of local judges we cannot obtain sentences that significantly punish violators and deter would-be violators,” said Hinchcliff. “Our local judges continue to demonstrate how much they care about our fish and wildlife resources. Poaching will not be tolerated in Lake County.”
Wildlife officers make the majority of contacts with law-abiding hunters and anglers. Special “spotlighting” details are intensive efforts to help wildlife officers catch deer poachers. Anyone with information about poaching or pollution activity in California is encouraged to call CDFW’s CalTIP hotline at 888-334-2258.