Texas Men Sentenced to Federal Prison for Deer Trafficking, Stolen Property

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AUSTIN — A four-year, multi-agency investigation that began when two Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Game Wardens received information about possible stolen property on two Northeast Texas ranches has ended with federal prison sentences for a father and son who pled guilty to transporting stolen property and wildlife trafficking.

Forty-nine-year-old James Dwayne Anderton and his 26-year-old son Jimmie Wallace Anderton, both of Quinlan in Hunt County, Texas were sentenced Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Sherman by Judge Marcia Crone.

"This case is an excellent example of a joint effort on the part of local, state and federal law enforcement," said Col. Pete Flores, TPWD’s law enforcement director. "We’re proud of the work our Game Wardens put in on this case, but everyone involved did a great job in pursuing a complicated investigation that not only resulted in the recovery of thousands of dollars worth of stolen property, it will help keep our Texas deer herd safe from disease by ending an illegal importation operation."

The elder Anderton drew 30 months in federal prison for interstate transportation of stolen property and was ordered to pay $180,952 restitution. His son will serve 27 months in federal prison for interstate transportation and will be jointly responsible for making restitution. In addition, both men got 12 months federal confinement for violations of the Federal Lacey Act involving the illegal transportation of deer across state lines. These sentences will be served concurrently with their other sentence, but they also face 36 months of supervised release following their discharge from prison.

Benjamin Tuggle, Regional Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, agrees with Col. Flores, adding, "We appreciate these kinds of collaborative efforts. It is all about wildlife conservation and to be successful we need to work together. All of the law enforcement agents working on this case are to be commended for their dedication and hard work."

The Andertons operate a turf grass and landscaping business and hold a TPWD permit to breed captive deer. In the spring of 2006 Game Wardens Dale Waters and Eric Collins were looking into some possible deer breeding violations when they received information that the Andertons might be in possession of stolen heavy equipment and trailers.

The wardens relayed this information to Texas Department of Public Safety Motor Vehicle Theft Division Sgts. John Murphy and Rex Wilemon, who drew up a search warrant executed on two pieces of land owned by the Andertons, one in Delta County and the other in Hunt County near Quinlan. Six Game Wardens and Sgt. Brad Chappell of the TPWD Special Operations Unit participated in the search, which resulted in the recovery of stolen farm machinery and construction equipment. Deputies with the Delta and Hunt county sheriff’s departments and members of the Northeast Texas Auto Theft Task Force also assisted in the search.

The two DPS investigators presented the findings from their stolen equipment investigation to FBI Special Agent Ken Paith who furthered the investigation and developed sufficient evidence to indict the Andertons on July 8, 2009 for interstate transportation of stolen property. Also indicted on the same charge was Timothy Shane Peavler, 37, of Lone Oak, Texas.

During this time Chappell received information that the Andertons had been unlawfully importing white-tailed deer from Arkansas. The Game Warden sergeant contacted U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent Mike Merida and began a joint investigation along with Little Rock-based Fish and Wildlife Special Agent Glen Pye and investigators with Arkansas Fish and Game Commission.

This cooperative effort eventually revealed the source of the deer the Andertons were illegally importing. Merida and Chappell determined the Andertons had paid more than $63,000 for at least 125 white-tailed deer and imported them to Texas in violation of a state statute which restricts deer importation.

The two officers eventually learned that the Andertons had hired people to travel to a deer breeder’s facility in northern Arkansas, load deer and return to Texas where they delivered the illegal cargo to both the Anderton’s properties.

Peavler pled guilty on July 27 last year to interstate transportation of stolen property and was sentenced to six months in federal prison and ordered to pay $42,403 restitution. The Andertons pled guilty Aug. 31.

"TPWD began limiting importation of live white-tailed deer and mule deer into Texas in the spring of 2002 due to concerns over potential spread of two diseases that could be devastating to our deer population, chronic wasting disease (CWD) and bovine tuberculosis," Flores said. "We have worked hard to prevent CWD from being introduced into Texas and so far our state has remained CWD free."

Assistant United States Attorney Randall Blake prosecuted the case.