Three local men were sentenced Jan. 16 in Franklin County Common Pleas Court for running an illegal hunting operation near New Albany in Delaware, Franklin and Licking counties.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources' two-year investigation concluded with fines and prison terms for Scott J. Walsh and Justin S. Walsh of Westerville and Steven A. Clemons of New Albany.
"This isn't just about poaching; it's about landowners and property rights," said Leighland Arehart, the Ohio Division of Wildlife law-enforcement supervisor for District 1."These guys were trespassing, entering properties without permission as a commercial enterprise.
"They were luring hunters from all over the state to hunt deer on properties without the landowners' consent and making a commercial gain off of it."
Scott J. Walsh, 55, of 5082 Buffalo Run, Westerville, was sentenced to 15 months in prison and fined $5,000 for one count of discharging a firearm near a premises, a third-degree felony; one count of attempted discharge of a firearm near a premises, a fourth-degree felony; one count of improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle, a fourth-degree felony; one count of wildlife trafficking, a third-degree misdemeanor; and one count of having weapons under disability, a third-degree felony.
His hunting rights were suspended for five years and he is not allowed to possess firearms. His vehicle and all-terrain vehicle were seized because they were used in the illegal commercial business and he had to turn in all white-tailed deer heads he had mounted.
He was convicted for hunting without permission twice before, on Oct. 9, 2002, and Dec. 11, 1999, Arehart said.
Justin S. Walsh, 23, also of 5082 Buffalo Run, Westerville, was sentenced to 30 days in prison and fined $2,000 for one count of improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle, a fourth-degree felony; and one count of hunting without permission, a third-degree misdemeanor.
He also lost his hunting license for five years and he is not allowed to possess firearms.
Clemons, 48, of 8238 Central College Road, New Albany, was sentenced to 30 days in jail and fined $500 for one count of improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle, a fourth-degree felony; and one count of hunting without permission, a third-degree misdemeanor.
Clemons also lost his hunting license for five years and he is not allowed to possess firearms.
Arehart said the investigation involved testimony from 40 landowners as witnesses. He said investigators received 30 complaints about the illegal operation between 1999 and 2010.
An ODNR release said Scott Walsh "advertised himself as a hunting guide, selling multiday hunts ranging from $250 to $1,200. He lured people in by claiming to own and/or have permission to hunt on 1,600 acres of prime deer-hunting property located in the New Albany area. In reality, Walsh owned no property and only had permission to hunt on 15 acres of land."
The three men guided at least 20 hunters from Ohio, Michigan, New Hampshire, Texas and Vermont on private property and took at least nine deer during the two-year period of the investigation.
Arehart said hunting violations can be reported by calling 1-800-POACHER or at the website wildohio.com.