BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) -- A northeastern Montana resident pleaded guilty Wednesday to violating federal game laws by exchanging deer hunting tags for walleye allegedly brought in by two Minnesota residents from Federal Dam.
Jan Douglas Peters, 56, of Froid, pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of violating the Lacey Act by aiding and abetting in the illegal taking and transportation of 20 deer from Montana to Minnesota.
Peters entered his plea after reaching an agreement in which six other counts, including two felonies, were dropped.
The agreement calls for the government to recommend a sentence of three years of probation. The maximum sentence for the misdemeanor is one year in prison. Sentencing was set for July 30.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kris McLean said had the case gone to trial, evidence would show that in October 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999, Peters supplied Montana resident deer hunting tags to co-defendants Charles Michael Campbell and Daniel Allen Tonga, both of Federal Dam, Minn. Campbell and Tonga would then shoot deer and transport them illegally back to Minnesota.
In an undercover investigation in October 1999, Montana game wardens posed as hunters and watched as Peters handed tags to Campbell and Tonga, McLean said. Peters was not involved in the hunting, but the co-defendants shot about every deer they saw, taking eight deer in 1999, he said.
Investigators expected the two Minnesotans to show up again in 2000 but they didn't. McLean said investigators got a search warrant and found some of the Montana resident tags, deer meat and heads at the residences of Campbell and Tonga.
The indictment said the men traded walleye for deer licenses between 1995 and 1999. During that period, Peters allegedly accepted at least 270 pounds of walleye fillets from Campbell and Tonga.
A federal indictment said the illegal trading began in October 1995 when Peters told Campbell, "You bring the fish, and I'll get the tags."
Peters agreed with McLean's account but added, "I had no idea there were going to be 20 deer killed."
Campbell and Tonga pleaded innocent March 1. They remain free without bond awaiting trial.
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