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CPW News Release
CPW News Release
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12/13/2018
Anonymous tip to Operation Game Thief leads to investigation that climaxed with guilty pleas in cross-country poaching operation


Anonymous tip to Operation Game Thief leads to investigation that climaxed with guilty pleas in cross-country poaching operation
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
Bill Vogrin
CPW SE Region PIO

719-227-5211


 

Dec. 13, 2018

Public tip sparks investigation that ends with guilty pleas in poaching case

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – An anonymous tip from the public led to weeks of investigation by Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers and resulted in the arrests and guilty pleas of two Florida men accused of participating in a poaching operation that claimed at least three mule deer and six pronghorn in Elbert and Lincoln counties.

CPW officers allege the poachers, who were in Colorado working jobs in the energy industry, killed deer and pronghorn – simply decapitating some and leaving their torsos – and shipped their heads to a taxidermist in Florida for mounting.

CPW, working with Colorado Springs Police Department, the Limon Police Department and the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, made two arrests in the case.

On March 2, 2018, Lawrence J. Cowart, 29, of Bunnell, Fla., was arrested after a search of his Limon apartment and his vehicle produced evidence of poaching.


Then on March 11, Timothy Draper, age 32, of Bunnell, Fla., was arrested after he arrived at the Colorado Springs Airport. Before his plane landed, CPW executed a search warrant and confiscated Draper’s truck from the airport parking lot. Forensic analysis of the truck produced important DNA evidence in the case.


The men were accused of illegally killing deer and pronghorn in the Limon area over a 10-month period dating to May 2017. CPW officers accused Draper and Cowart of multiple counts of willful destruction of wildlife, Class 5 felonies, as well as several misdemeanor charges of illegal taking of wildlife, hunting from a motor vehicle, waste of game meat and illegal transfer of a hunting license.


On Oct. 5, 2018, Cowart pleaded guilty to a Class 5 felony of willful destruction of wildlife. He was sentenced to three years probation, forfeited all his firearms and equipment used in his crime and agreed to testify against anyone else arrested in the case. He paid $2,440 in fines and court costs.

On Oct. 16, Draper pleaded guilty to illegal possession of three or more big game animals. He was sentenced to two years supervised probation and forfeited all weapons and equipment used in his crime. He also paid a $2,100 game penalty and a total of $4,213 in fines and court costs.


Both Draper and Cowart still face possible suspension of their hunting privileges, ranging anywhere from one year to lifetime suspensions.

CPW’s Frank McGee, Area Wildlife Manager for the Pikes Peak region, said poaching is a crime CPW takes seriously.

“As the agency responsible for perpetuating the wildlife resources of the state, Colorado Parks and Wildlife will not tolerate poaching,” McGee said. “These men are not hunters by any definition. In the eyes of CPW, and the law, they are criminals who were engaged in illegal killing of wildlife.”

As part of their plea agreements, Draper and Cowart surrendered the trophy heads of the illegally harvested deer and pronghorn as well as several firearms used in the poaching.

McGee said the investigation is ongoing and more arrests and misdemeanor citations could follow as district wildlife managers Benjamin Meier and Logan Wilkins pursue additional leads in the case.

“This case is a great example of the work our wildlife officers do on a daily basis,” McGee said of Meier and Wilkins. “We pride ourselves on our law enforcement work. And it shows our commitment to stopping poachers.”

McGee also praised the person who came forward with the tip to CPW’s poaching hotline Operation Game Thief.

“We depend on the public to report suspicious activity,” McGee said. “We have a limited staff. It’s critical we get help from the public to stop crimes against wildlife. This is a great example that when people call, we respond.”

Anyone who has information about a possible crime against wildlife is encouraged to call CPW or report it anonymously to ​Operation Game Thief. Witnesses can reach Operation Game Thief several ways including by calling, toll-free, 1-877-COLO-OGT (or 877-265-6648). Verizon cell phone users can dial #OGT. Or send an email to CPW at game.thief@state.co.us​​.

Callers do not have to reveal their names or testify in court. A $500 reward is offered for information on cases involving big game or endangered species, while $250 is offered for information on turkey and $100 for fishing and small game cases.

A Citizens Committee administers the reward fund, which is maintained by private contributions. The board may approve rewards of up to $1,000 for flagrant cases. Rewards are paid for information that leads to an arrest or a citation being issued.

To learn more about Operation Game Thief, visit the CPW website.

PHOTOS:
Colorado Parks and Wildlife's Benjamin Meier, left, and Logan Wilkins, both district wildlife managers, pose with an assortment of deer and pronghorn skulls and a hunting rifle they confiscated as part of their investigation into a poaching operation based in Limon. Their probe led to two arrests and guilty pleas by energy industry workers from Florida. 

Deer antlers and a pronghorn skull and antlers confiscated in a poaching operation bust after an investigation by Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers.

Photos courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife / Bill Vogrin

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CPW is an enterprise agency, relying primarily on license sales, state parks fees and registration fees to support its operations, including: 41 state parks and more than 350 wildlife areas covering approximately 900,000 acres, management of fishing and hunting, wildlife watching, camping, motorized and non-motorized trails, boating and outdoor education. CPW's work contributes approximately $6 billion in total economic impact annually throughout Colorado.

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