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Utah DWR reports hunting permit fraud, seize illegally killed animals

Trophy Mule Deer Illegally Harvested in Henry Mountain in 2019.jpeg
Posted at 10:38 AM, Feb 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-10 12:38:58-05

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is warning of the steep consequences associated with hunting permit fraud.

According to a DWR release Thursday, conservation officers have investigated more than 95 cases where someone intentionally committed license fraud to obtain a hunting permit, since 2017. DWR said these cases typically involve a nonresident claiming to be a Utahn in order to increase their odds of obtaining a permit for a once-in-a-lifetime or limited-entry hunt or to get the lower permit price offered to Utah residents.

But, some of these license fraud cases also include Utahns claiming to be nonresidents in order to obtain bonus points for all of the wildlife species (something only available to nonresidents), so they can increase their odds of drawing permits in the future.

The charges for these cases range from a class B misdemeanor to a third-degree felony.

“Any license that is obtained through fraud, deceit or misrepresentation is not valid,” DWR Statewide Investigations Capt. Wade Hovinga said. “With each hunting permit drawing, our investigators review the applicants’ data to detect any potential fraud. Our officers have also detected fraud by encountering a hunter in the field and discovering that the individual purchased a Utah hunting license because they have a second home or a cabin in Utah, which doesn't qualify them as a Utah resident."

DWR investigators revealed in 2017 that a Utahn had been applying for hunting permits and bonus points for two years using their grandfather's identification. The person was not successful in drawing a permit, but he or she had earned bonus points to improve their chances of getting one. For identity fraud, the person was charged with a class B misdemeanor and a third-degree felony.

DWR conservation inspectors discovered in 2019 that a St. George resident had been claiming to be an Arizona resident for the past eight years in order to receive extra points for all species.

Also in 2019, a South Carolina citizen obtained an unlawful Utah resident hunting license and got a premium limited-entry buck deer permit for the Henry Mountains, a hunting unit known for producing huge, world-class mule deer. With the fraudulently obtained permit, the person harvested a trophy mule deer buck. DWR detectives discovered the fraud, and the defendant was charged with a third-degree felony and sentenced to pay $8,000 in restitution. The mule deer was taken from a Wisconsin residence.

In Millard County, a California person got an illegal Utah resident permission and harvested a bighorn sheep in 2020. The applicant had been applying for this permit as a Utah resident for numerous years, accumulating bonus points fraudulently until they were successful in drawing the permit. The suspect was successfully prosecuted when DWR detectives got a tip about the bogus permit. A third-degree felony complaint was filed against them, and they were ordered to pay $25,000 in restitution. The bighorn sheep were taken from a California home.

“Our once-in-a-lifetime hunts have a very limited number of permits. When someone lies and obtains one of those permits through fraud, they are robbing someone else of that hunting opportunity,” Hovinga said. “As the name of those hunts implies, many hunters wait their entire lives to have that opportunity, and it is really frustrating to see that limited permit go to someone who obtained it unethically and illegally. It can be difficult to discover fraud cases, and we rely heavily on tips and other information from the public to investigate these incidents.”

People with information about any wildlife-related crimes in Utah are encouraged to contact DWR conservation officers in one of the following ways:

Rewards are available (both monetary and reward permits) and DWR says officers will respect requests for confidentiality.