An Alaskan fishing guide is spending six months in an Oregon prison for illegally selling big game guide services in addition to several other abuses over a five-year period.
Stephen Jeremy Hicks, 45, of Anchorage, was sentenced in US District Court last month.
The prison term was part of a plea deal in which Hicks admitted he directed hunters to federal lands on a sheep hunting expedition near Lake Max on the western side of Cook Inlet in 2018 without a permit. In addition to the jail time, he agreed to forego the Piper PA-18 Super Cub and paid $13,460 in compensation.
Hicks’ attorney, Kevin Fitzgerald, said his client began serving a prison sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in Sheridan, Oregon, in late July.
It is unusual for an Alaskan guide to receive a prison sentence for violating wildlife laws.
But in this case, federal prosecutors say, Hicks participated in a “multi-year wave of wildlife crime” from 2015 through 2019 that led to the need for harsh punishment, prosecutors wrote in judgment note earlier this year.
Many of the offenses he was accused of have occurred while Hicks’ pilot license was on probation or had his license revoked.
According to the sentencing memo, state officials placed his license on probation in 2016 for failing to provide contracts to clients prior to providing services, and for failing to maintain safe and satisfactory field conditions.
The license was permanently revoked in March 2019 by a state administrative law judge following complaints from a “utterly miserable” fishing trip in October 2017, the judge wrote in that case.
The federal ruling last month focused on the 2018 Max Lake incident, but prosecutors during the sentencing phase cited several other statewide charges against Hicks.
The state’s charges spanned five years and included wasting moose meat, failing to accompany customers, killing bears using bait to lure them, and using an aircraft and electronic communications to monitor large game.
State attorneys dismissed those charges this month following the federal ruling, according to Ron DuBois, an attorney with the Special Prosecution Office. DuBois said that’s because the federal ruling used state charges for so-called related behaviour.
US District Court Chief Justice Sharon L.
DuBois said federal governance meets state governance goals. Hicks “didn’t have a plane, didn’t have a pilot’s license, and he went to jail for six months.”
During last month’s sentencing hearing in federal court, Gleeson noted the lack of investigative resources to protect wildlife, the fact that Hicks benefited from his crimes, and the trust the state of Alaska has placed in big game evidence, according to a statement from the US attorney general. office in Anchorage.
“The need for imprisonment is to make clear that blatant disregard for federal and state fish and wildlife rules will not be tolerated,” the judge said.
The 2017 manhunt that led to Hicks’ license being revoked took place in the Cape Yakataga region between Cordova and Yakutat along the rugged northern Gulf of Alaska coast.
Several agents in that hunt told investigators they had experienced a rain-soaked flight that included a filthy cabin with a flooded wood stove, moldy food and rodent excrement, and Hicks did not show up for several days, leaving them to fend for themselves. Even chaos, according to a 36-page resolution document.
According to the decision document, the brown bear who killed himself on the beach was the only animal successfully harvested on the trip. Another man shot and wounded a goat while hunting with assistant guide Hicks. The guide, who led his client into the difficult terrain of hunting, said that a steep valley where the animal ended up was too dangerous to retrieve and “shoot the goats to get them out of their misery.”
Judge Cheryl Mandala found in 2019 that Hicks “failed to provide customers with minimal adequate shelter, encouraged customers to engage in multiple violations of government fishing laws, and inappropriately engaged in same-day aerial fishing” — all while the observation period, she wrote In the decision to revoke the license.
The practice of directing others without a license can be legal under a so-called ‘buddy stalking’, where the people involved agree to share costs but there is no official evidence.
However, federal prosecutors have cataloged a number of cases in which Hicks appears to have been paid for services, drawn up contracts and escorted fishermen into the field after his license was revoked.
Once Hicks is out of prison, he will remain under supervision for three years. During that time, he is not permitted to fly private aircraft or engage in any commercial fishing activity in any capacity.