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Knoxville Attorney Blevins fined for violation of Lacey Act
By Bob Hodge
2008

Allen Blevins with the 10-point, 172-pound buck he killed in Pike County, Ill., and checked out as a Tennessee deer killed in Putnam County.

As part of his plea agreement, Allen Blevins turned over the mounts of three bucks he either killed or tagged in Illinois

This picture taken of a 10-point, 172-pound buck killed in Illinois but checked out in Tennessee at Adam’s Taxidermy in Claxton was one of the key pieces of evidence against Allen Blevins.


A hunting trip that began in Pike County, Ill., in 2004 ended Monday in United States District Court.

Blevins, an attorney in Knoxville, plead guilty Monday to a misdemeanor violation of the Lacey Act for transporting a 10-point buck from Illinois and checking it out as a deer he killed in Tennessee. Blevins killed the deer during an archery hunt on Oct. 1, 2004, and checked it out at Adams Taxidermy in Claxton on Oct. 2 as a deer from Putnam County.

The investigation lasted almost two years and included investigators and officers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

As part of his plea, Blevins paid $7,500 in fines. He also admitted to using his Illinois tags to check out a 10-point buck killed in Pike County by another hunter from Knoxville and killing a second buck, an 8-point, and having it checked out by someone else.

Non-resident hunters who receive an archery permit in Illinois are limited to one antlered buck per year.

The three trophies were confiscated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but Blevins did not lose his hunting privileges in either state. Because of his plea agreement he faces no charges in Tennessee.

Blevins began hunting "as soon as I was old enough to carry a gun" and had no prior record.

"I'm not going to say I'm not guilty and all that stuff," he said. "I made a mistake and am sorry for it. I took my punishment and I am moving on."

About a year after Blevins killed the 10-point the Illinois Department of Natural Resources received an anonymous tip about where and when the deer had been killed and how it had been checked out. Since the case crossed state lines and triggered the Lacey Act, the bulk of the investigation was turned over to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Timothy Santel, resident agent in charge for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Illinois, Indiana and Missouri, took over the case but didn't have many leads. Deer hunting in Illinois is a billion-dollar-a-year business, and he said poaching trophy bucks is taken seriously.

"The number of people who travel to Illinois in hopes of killing a big buck is astronomical," Santel said. "As the competition increases we see people crossing the line.

"We don't have elk, we don't have moose, we don't have caribou ... we have big bucks. They are important to the state."

Santel would never have been involved if not for the Lacey Act.

Signed by President William McKinley in 1900, the law was aimed at market hunters and prohibited, in part, the transportation of illegally killed or captured animals across state lines. The law has been amended several times, but when Blevins left Illinois with a deer not properly tagged and checked, Lacey came into play.

Court papers say Blevins was working as a guide with Hadley Creek Outfitters in Pike County when all three of the bucks were killed. Hadley Creek, which has pictures of the bucks on its Web site, denies Blevins was working for them.

The owners of Hadley Creek refused to comment, but released a statement:

"This incident occurred in 2004 prior to Mr. Blevins' involvement with Hadley Creek Outfitters. Hadley Creek Outfitters had no knowledge or involvement with Mr. Blevins' activities. Mr. Blevins is not currently guiding or employed by Hadley Creek Outfitters. Hadley Creek Outfitters was not investigated nor cited for any of Mr. Blevins' actions."

Every hunter knows tracking a deer can be tough. Tracking one killed a year earlier and driven through three states can be just about impossible.

But working with TWRA and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel in East Tennessee, Santel caught a break.

"When we went and started digging into it a little bit we came up with the record of a deer checked in (by Blevins) a day after our bow season opened," Santel said. "That information corroborated the call we had received."

The walls of Adam's Taxidermy are covered with pictures of big bucks that have been brought in over the years. Blevins turned down the invitation to have his picture made with the deer, but did allow one of the workers at Adams to take a snapshot of the buck as it was being weighed.

That picture, which had Blevins' name, the date and Putnam County written on it, was put on the wall.

It was there when investigators from the Fish and Wildlife Service visited the shop in the fall of 2006.

"They provided us with that Polaroid," Santel said. "What was good about that was when you look at the Polaroid and compare it to the deer he was posing with on the Hadley Creek site, it was the same deer."

Santel, TWRA and others kept digging. Although many of the people he interviewed were less than cooperative, investigators picked up pieces of information here and there and were able to fit them together. Associates of Blevins in Knoxville were called on to give depositions.

"We knocked on a lot of doors and the deeper we dug the more we found out," Santel said. "We got some information about where the deer were located, at his father's house, and obtained a federal search warrant and all three deer were there."

According to Santel, the deer heads had been used at various functions around the Knoxville area to advertise hunting opportunities at Hadley Creek. The boards the bucks were mounted on all had, at one time, brass plates that stated when the deer were killed and that it was Blevins who killed them.

Investigators knew about the plates and went so far as to track them to the engraver. Santel said the case was made from a lot of little pieces of information.

"It was the hardest easy investigation I have ever done," he said. "It was all about being persistent."

But some people have questioned the time and money spent on investigating the killing of three bucks. Santel said when he's investigating a case he doesn't differentiate by species.

"I just did the same thing I've always done," he said. "As an officer, it doesn't matter if it's a deer or if it's an endangered species, if someone is killing it illegally we're going to look at it."

Blevins appeared before U.S. Magistrate Byron Cudmore on Monday. In court, Cudmore told Blevins not having a previous record kept the penalties from being more severe.

Early on in the investigation Blevins hired an attorney and stopped talking with investigators. He potentially faced being charged with a felony violation of the Lacey Act, and not only could he be fined but could spend time in jail. His attorney worked with the prosecutor to hammer out the eventual plea agreement.

Blevins said: "The mistakes I made were my mistakes and my mistakes alone."


http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2008/feb/10/a-lot-of-dough-for-three-bucks-big-trouble-too/
 

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He should have lost his hunting license, all poachers should. 7500 bucks to a lawyer is chump change. They cannot access fines according to income status. 7500 bucks to a fireman would probably hurt, it would to this farmer. Taking away hunting privledges is an equal punishment to all individuals. JMO
 
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