Man Found Guilty of Breaking Wildlife Laws
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) _ A man charged with slaughtering and selling big game animals, including elk and bighorn sheep, was found guilty Wednesday of seven counts of violating federal wildlife laws.
Loren Ellison, who was among 15 people arrested last October during an 11- state, undercover investigation by federal wildlife agents dubbed ″Operation Trophy Killew, was convicted by a U.S. District Court jury on all but two counts against him.
The panel, which deliberated for more than 19 hours in three days, failed to reach a verdict on two counts involving interstate sale of elk capes, and Judge James Battin declared a mistrial on those counts.
Ellison, 33, of Livingston, faces maximum sent of 5 years in prison and a $20,000 fine on each count.
Most of the charges involved violating the Lacey Act, which elevates state violations to federal crimes if illegally taken game is transported across state lines. Other charges against Ellison involved violations of federal laws protecting birds of prey.
One of the two counts on which the jury failed to reach a verdict alleged that Harvey Nels Amundsen, 26, of Great Falls, aided and abetted Ellison in selling a bull elk to undercover agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
At his trial, Ellison admitted committing many of the crimes listed in the indictment, including sales of illegally taken golden eagles, elk and velvet elk antlers. He was charged with selling agents 14 golden eagles and admitted killing 12 of them.
He argued he was entrapped into illegal activity by government agents.
Robert Zimmerman, chief prosecutor for the U.S. Attorneys Office in Montana, depicted Ellison as a person with total disregard for the law who makes a living slaughtering animals.
Chris Thimsen, Ellison’s attorney, described his client as a down-on-his luck family man who was enticed by government agents to commit crimes.
Thimsen said Ellison admitted to poaching to feed his family and illegally taking elk horns out of Yellowstone Park. But Thimsen said Ellison denied being involved in large-scale commerical activity involving animals or animal parts prior to his involvement with government agents.
Ellison also is a defendant in two related federal indictments and is scheduled to be tried on those charges later this year.