United States Attorney Joe Kelly announced that Jacob N. Hueftle, age 30, and Hidden Hills Outfitters LLC (HHO), of Broken Bow, Nebraska, entered a plea of guilty in federal court in Omaha, Nebraska, before Senior United States Judge Laurie Smith Camp for conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty 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. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act prohibits, among other things, the shooting and killing of hawks, falcons, and other migratory birds.
Hueftle and HHO each admitted to one felony conspiracy count involving the illegal transport, purchase, and sale of wildlife in interstate commerce. Hueftle and HHO’s sentencing is set for October 5, 2020. Hueftle faces up to a five-year term of imprisonment and a fine of $250,000. HHO faces up to five-year term of probation and a $500,000 fine.
An investigation determined that between September 2012 and April, 2018, Jacob Hueftle, HHO, and other conspirators provided guiding and outfitting services to hunting clients for the unlawful taking of no less than 97 big game animals or wild turkeys in violation of Nebraska State Law including 30 white-tailed deer, 34 mule deer, six pronghorn, and 27 wild turkey.
The change of plea hearing today is part of the ongoing prosecution of numerous defendants related to violations committed by owners, guides, and clients of HHO.
To date, 29 defendants have pleaded guilty and have been sentenced and ordered to pay a total of $248,048 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.