WASHINGTON Nicholaus J. Rodgers pleaded guilty on Tuesday to one count of conspiring to violate the Lacey Act. Christopher W. Loncarich was scheduled to be in court on Wednesday, but his plea hearing was rescheduled for August 15.
The Lacey Act is a federal law that makes it illegal to knowingly transport or sell in interstate commerce any wildlife that has been taken or possessed in violation of state laws or regulations.
In January, officials with the Justice Department filed a 17-count indictment against Loncarich and Rodgers for numerous hunting violations.
The indictment was based on the pair's practice of illegally capturing and maiming mountain lions and bobcats as part of a scheme to make hunting the cats easier for their clients between 2007-2010.
Allegations include that Mr. Loncarich and his assistant guides devised a scheme whereby they would trap the cats in cages prior to hunts and release the cats when the client was nearby. Mr. Loncarich, Mr. Rodgers, and other guides would use radios to communicate, ensuring that they took their clients to the correct location where the cats were released.
In order to keep the cats in the correct areas, Mr. Loncarich and other guides would allegedly shoot them in the paw or legs, or even attach leghold traps to them.
Many of the clients they guided also did not have proper tags or licenses to take mountain lions or bobcats back in Utah. Allegedly, Mr. Loncarich would take clients to 'check in' the illegally taken cats with the Colorado Division of Wildlife (now 'Colorado Parks and Wildlife') where he would use false records to obtain seals for the hides.
To date, four assistant guides have pleaded guilty to offenses arising from the conspiracy.
The case is being prosecuted by the Environmental Crimes Section of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division.