Empower Wisconsin | Jan. 6, 2020
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Talk about your prosecutorial overreach.
A hunter recently was hit with a $23,000 fine and banned from hunting activities for two years on charges he violated the federal Lacey Act, which prohibits the trafficking of illegal wildlife.
While Jeff Althoff, of Greensboro, N.C., may have broken the law and he certainly appears to be a braggart, the punishment doesn’t quite fit the crime.
Althoff admitted in federal court that on Sept. 18, 2018, he “falsely registered” with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources that he had killed an antlered buck the day before. He told the DNR that he had brought down the deer with his bow on public land in Buffalo County.
Turns out, Althoff killed the animal on a private game farm in Taylor County, using a paid guide, according to a press release from Scott C. Blader, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin.
Althoff, 32, then transported the animal to Pierce County and staged pictures with the deer to make it appear as if he had killed the animal on public land in Buffalo County, Blader said.
“Althoff posted pictures of the 172 inch antlered buck on his Facebook page falsely alleging that he stalked the animal for hours, shot it at 32 yards, and that it took him 4 hours of solo dragging to get it back to his truck,” the prosector said in the press release. Althoff also transported the falsely labeled buck from Wisconsin to Minnesota, the prosecutor said.
“As a result of the false registration with the WDNR, the buck was deemed falsely labeled,” Blader said.
Althoff is scheduled for sentencing on March 20.
Under the plea agreement, he also must forfeit the items he used in the hunt, including all of the archery equipment and arrows, the range finder, cape and antlers.
He had faced maximum penalties of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.
Clearly, Althoff broke the law. Based on the information in the case, he should have gotten a good slap on the wrist.
But does his boastful “false labeling” necessitate a federal investigation? He didn’t gun down an endangered species. He was, according to the U.S. attorney, caught lying, boasting about a hunt that didn’t happen the way Althoff said it did.
For that, government agents turned it all into a federal case, spending plenty of taxpayer dollars and resources in the bargain. The investigation was conducted by law enforcement agents with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Wisconsin DNR Bureau of Law Enforcement, and the Minnesota DNR, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Apparently, these law enforcement agents don’t have anything else to do.