In a press release, United States Attorney Joe Kelly announced that Conrad Hueftle, age 28, of Broken Bow, Nebraska, was sentenced today in federal court in Omaha, Nebraska, by United States Magistrate Judge Michael D. Nelson for violating the Lacey Act. The Lacey Act prohibits the trafficking in interstate commerce “tainted” (i.e., taken in violation of a law or regulation) wildlife, fish, or indigenous plants. Hueftle was convicted of one count of the illegal taking of wildlife in interstate commerce and sentenced to two years’ probation.
Magistrate Judge Nelson ordered Hueftle to pay $2,500 in restitution and a $5,000 fine. As part of his probation terms, Hueftle shall not hunt, trap, guide, outfit, or otherwise assist or be present in the field with anyone engaging in those activities.
An investigation determined that on November 12, 2016, Hueftle killed a mule deer during the Nebraska firearm deer season upon property located near the Hidden Hills Outfitters (HHO) Lodge in Custer County, Nebraska. Hueftle used a Nebraska Resident Firearm-Restricted Statewide Buck Only permit for taking the mule deer within a Mule Deer Conservation Area (MDCA), a geographic area designated by the State of Nebraska as requiring particularly authorized permits for taking mule deer. Hueftle knew his restricted deer permit did not authorize the taking of mule deer within the MDCA and knew at the time of the taking that he killed the mule deer unlawfully within the MDCA.
Hueftle later transported the deer or parts thereof in interstate commerce by obtaining services of another HHO client to ship the mule deer head, antlers, and cape from Nebraska to a taxidermy business located in Watertown, Wisconsin, for the purpose of converting the trophy parts into a European-style head mount.
Under the terms of his plea agreement, Hueftle abandoned the mule deer taxidermy mount originating from the unlawful 2016 hunt and a trophy-sized 4 X 4 white-tailed deer mount Hueftle killed during the 2014 Nebraska firearm deer season.
The sentencing hearing today is part of the ongoing prosecution of numerous defendants related to violations committed by owners, guides, and clients of Hidden Hills Outfitters. To date, 33 defendants have pleaded guilty and have been sentenced and ordered to pay a total of $580,202 in fines and restitution for underlying violations related to deer taken within baited areas; deer, pronghorn, and wild turkeys taken with weapons or firearms prohibited during their respective hunting seasons; deer taken during closed season hours, from the road, or without a valid permit; and mule deer taken within the Mule Deer Conservation Area.
The operation was a joint investigation conducted by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Law Enforcement Division.