The investigation, which began in 1998, focused on several big game guides, based in Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico, who were suspected of unlawfully using aircraft prior to and during hunting seasons to locate deer and elk for hunting clients in Northern Arizona.
The investigation also focused on illegal guiding and hunting on the Navajo Indian Reservation. To date 12 individuals have been convicted of federal violations and have paid in excess of $85,000 in fines and have forfeited one aircraft and unlawfully taken wildlife.
David Holton III, of Lake Montezuma, was indicted on one felony violation of the Lacey Act, one felony violation of conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act, and one misdemeanor violation of the Airborne Hunting Act. All violations relate to an elk hunt conducted in 1998 near Payson, Arizona, in which it is alleged that a paid hunting client took an elk with the aid of an aircraft.
The Lacey Act is a federal wildlife law which makes it unlawful to transport, sell, receive, acquire or purchase wildlife which was taken, transported, possessed, or sold in violation of state, federal, or Indian tribal laws or regulations. Felony violations of the Lacey Act carry maximum fines of up to $250,000 for a person, $500,000 for a corporation and up to five years in prison. All vehicles and aircraft used in violation of the felony provisions of the Lacey Act are subject to forfeiture.
The airborne hunting act is a federal wildlife law that makes it unlawful to shoot animals from an aircraft or to harass animals with an aircraft. The airborne hunting act regulations prohibits a person, while on the ground, from taking or attempting to take wildlife by means, aid, or use of an aircraft. The maximum penalty for violations of the airborne hunting act can include fines of up to $100,000 for a person and $200,000 for a corporation and one year in prison.
The investigation that led to the indictments was conducted by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service with assistance from the Arizona Game and Fish Department. The prosecution is being handled by the United States Attorney's Office.
Man allegedly flips car, reports it stolen
Saturday morning at about 5:05 a.m. Cottonwood police responded to Arizona 89A for a reported rollover accident.
According to police, the investigation revealed that the driver had rolled the 1995 Honda into a dirt median and fled the area. The impact of the roll caused damage to the top of the vehicle, the wheel and the windshield.
Inside the vehicle police found a Mexico driver's license with the name Juan Casiano-Zuniga, 22. The registration of the vehicle showed that it was Casiano-Zuniga's car.
Police made contact with him later that day. He reportedly stated that his car had been stolen and that he wanted to file a report. An officer asked him if he had been driving and was involved in the accident. Casiano-Zuniga reportedly told police that he was not.
Officers asked if he had a key to the vehicle. According to police, the key had red stains on it that appeared to be blood.
After more questioning from the police, Casiano-Zuniga reportedly stated that he had been drinking and was operating the vehicle at the time of the collision. According to police, his eyes were blood shot and there was an odor of alcohol about him, but because of the time since the collision, a sobriety test was not performed.
He was processed, cited and released for false reporting to law enforcement and leaving the scene of an accident.
Bad check writer allegedly has history of fraud
James Cleator, 45, of Black Canyon City, was arrested Monday on charges of fraudulent schemes at Sears in Cottonwood.
According to Cottonwood police, officers arrived at about 11:30 a.m. in reference to a reported theft. The owners of the business said that Cleator came into the store and asked to purchase a video camcorder. He then wrote a check for the purchase. The clerk reportedly told him to wait while she verified the check. Cleator then reportedly left the store.
The owner witnessed the incident and chased after Cleator. He was caught and escorted back to the store.
It was verified that there were insufficient funds for the check and Cleator was placed under arrest.
Police later learned that Cleator is a suspect in a fraud case from Camp Verde for a similar incident. Cottonwood police informed Camp Verde detectives that he is being held in the Yavapai County jail in Camp Verde where he was booked on one count of fraudulent schemes.
Clarkdale man arrested on weapons charges
A driving altercation allegedly escalated to a threat involving an automatic pistol on Saturday.
An argument allegedly broke out in the parking lot of Bashas' grocery store in Cottonwood. According to police, the driver of a Chevrolet Blazer raised the weapon above the edge of his window. The victim left the scene and called police.
While on patrol of the area, an officer saw a vehicle matching the description given by the victim. The vehicle was also traveling at 57 mph in a 35 mph speed limit zone.
A second officer was called to assist in the traffic stop. There were reportedly two people in the car. The driver, Daniel Gibson, 19 of Clarkdale, was asked to step out of the vehicle. Officers noticed several spent 9mm shells on the driver's side of the vehicle.
During a search of the vehicle, police also located a box of 9mm ammunition and several bottles of alcohol.
When questioned about the ammunition, Gibson reportedly pulled his sweatshirt off revealing an automatic weapon tucked in the waistband of his pants.
He handed the weapon over to police and was placed under arrest. Passenger, Cruz Sepulveda, 18 of Cottonwood, was also arrested on charges of underage possession of alcohol.
According to police, when questioned at the police station, Sepulveda stated that he was inside Bashas' during the earlier incident and Gibson was driving around.
Sepulveda was cited and released. Gibson was transported to the Yavapai County jail in Camp Verde and was booked for disorderly conduct with a weapon, carrying a concealed weapon, driving with a suspended license, criminal speed and underage possession of alcohol.