September 28, 2007
Austin, Texas ó A Texas man and a Minnesota man were both
sentenced to federal prison terms yesterday for illegally transporting
white-tailed deer across state lines.
On Nov. 24 in Plano near Dallas, Federal District Judge Richard A. Schell
sentenced Robert Eichenour, owner of Circle E Ranch in Grimes County, Texas, to
18 months in federal prison. Eichenour must also serve 36 months probation after
his release from prison and pay a $50,000 fine. Brian Becker of Minnesota was
also sentenced to 33 months in federal prison and 36 months probation after his
During the probation period, neither man will be allowed to sell deer. The
equipment used by both during their illegal endeavor was also forfeited. Both
men were convicted of felony violations of the federal Lacey Act, which
prohibits the transportation of illegally captured or prohibited animals across
The two men were caught on Oct. 22, 2006, in a smuggling sting operation
conducted by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Special Operations Unit and
United States Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agents. Eichenour and Becker
were caught smuggling 14 white-tailed buck deer from Minnesota to Eichenourís
ranch in Grimes County.
Investigators say the plan was for Eichenour to bring in hunters and sell hunts
for the trophy Minnesota bucks. After a lengthy investigation it was determined
that, over a four year period, Becker and Eichenour had smuggled in
approximately $300,000 worth of white-tailed bucks. Other investigations
continue involving people Eichenour did business with as a permitted deer
breeder in Texas.
"Texas game wardens and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents continue to work
together to deter illegal trafficking in wildlife across our state and across
America," said Col. Peter Flores, TPWD Law Enforcement Division director. "The
illegal trade may be perceived to be profitable for some, but the price to pay
is high when they are caught, and we hope that this type of penalty will deter
those who would engage in the illegal wildlife trade."
The lead investigators for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department were the late
Sgt. Adam Chrane and Sgt. Brad Chappell, both investigators in a TPWD special
operations unit that focuses on large scale cases which cross regional lines.
The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service was represented in the case by Special Agent
Mike Merida. The federal prosecutor was Assistant U.S. Attorney Shamoil T.
Shipchandler in Dallas.
During the sentencing phase, former TPWD employee Brian Richards was called to
testify about the threat of disease associated with the smuggled deer. Richards
is currently employed by the U.S. Geological Survey as a Chronic Wasting Disease