Nicholaus J. Rodgers, 31, of Shady Cove, Oregon, pleaded guilty in federal court in Denver to a felony conspiracy charge stemming from the assistance he provided to an outfitter who sold illegal mountain lion and bobcat hunts in Colorado and Utah, the Justice Department announced.
Rodgers pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act. 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.
According to an indictment returned by the grand jury for the District of Colorado on Jan. 7, 2014, and the plea agreement, Rodgers conspired with others to provide numerous illegal hunts of mountain lions and bobcats in Colorado and Utah from 2007 to 2009. In particular, Rodgers and his confederates trapped, shot and caged mountain lions and bobcats prior to hunts in order to provide easier chases of the cats for clients. Rodgers also admits that he and his partners guided several hunters that did not possess a Utah mountain lion or bobcat license on mountain lion or bobcat hunts in Utah. The outfitter for whom Rodgers guided, Christopher W. Loncarich, was also indicted on Jan. 7, 2014. Loncarich is based in Mack, Colorado, which is approximately five miles from the Utah-Colorado border. Loncarich sold mountain lion hunts for between $3,500 and $7,500 and bobcat hunts for between $700 and $1,500 and shared a portion of the proceeds from successful hunts with Rodgers.
Three of Loncarich’s assistant guides have previously pleaded guilty to Lacey Act violations in connection with their guiding activities with Loncarich.
The maximum penalty for conspiring to violate the Lacey Act is up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Under the terms of the plea agreement, the prosecution agreed to a sentencing calculation pursuant to the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines but did not agree on a term of imprisonment, an amount of fines or an amount of restitution. A sentencing hearing for Rodgers is set for Nov. 7, 2014.
The case was investigated by the United States Fish & Wildlife Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. The case is being prosecuted by the Environmental Crimes Section of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.