In 2016 the largest investigation in the history of the Ohio DNR came to a head. The case mostly involved the illegal taking and sale of Lake Erie sport fish and white-tailed deer. Operation “North Coast” came to a head in March 2016 with the execution of search warrents, arrest warrents, and many interviews. First reported by Meigs Independent press.
John Zayac, John Stofan and Terrance Ankrom harvested 39 deer, including 22 bucks over the two-year course of the investigation. In order to cover it up, they would have family members check in their deer. John Zayac paid $40,000 in restitution, had his hunting privileges revoked for seven years, forfeited a truck and 44 of the 54 seized deer mounts were forfeited to the ODNR Division of Wildlife. John Stofan was ordered to pay $25,000 in restitution, lost his hunting privileges for five years and 31 of the 35 deer mounts were forfeited to the ODNR Division of Wildlife. Terrence Ankrom was ordered to pay $6,800 in restitution, forfeited a truck and lost his hunting privileges for five years.
Mandon Freeworth was also charged with many felonies for illegally taking and selling white-tailed deer. some of the charges included discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle, felony sales of wildlife, possessing weapons while intoxicated, and 3 counts of illegally selling wild game. Freeworth pleaded to 10 of the charges and served 22 months in prison. He paid $5,513.03 in restitution and has lost his privilege to hunt, fish and trap until 2035.
Dennis and Andrew Urig were charged for felony sales of white-tailed deer meat. Investigators documented the pair selling processed deer products from a storefront they owned. Dennis Urig paid $3,663.30 and lost his hunting and fishing privileges for six years. Andrew Urig was ordered to pay $1,340 and lost his hunting and fishing privileges for three years.
Carl Taylor Jr. and Alexander Lenz sold more than 100 pounds of sport-caught perch, walleye and white bass to investigators. Taylor was ordered to pay $10,700 in restitution. Lenz was ordered to pay $2,500 in restitution, and both lost their fishing privileges for one year.
Ron Gasparac was charged with three felony counts of selling yellow perch fillets. He was catching more than his daily limit then selling the meat. Gasparac was sentenced to pay $6,120 in restitution to the ODNR Division of Wildlife for the value of the yellow perch and two years probation.
The cases resulted in 46 defendants being charged with 91 felonies and 73 misdemeanors. These 46 individuals were assessed a combined $131,763 in fines and restitution, sentenced to 8.6 years of jail with the majority suspended, received 79 years of hunting and fishing revocation and paid more than $18,000 in court cost.
Most of these charges were for illegally taking wild game, but a major part of the investigation involved the illegal sale of that meat. Selling wild game is illegal for a very good reason. Many hunters would shoot more deer if they could make money selling the meat. In the 1800s we eliminated most of our wild game in the US through market hunting. Making it illegal to sell wild game helped to bring wild game populations up to where they are today.