WASHINGTON—A federal grand jury in Denver returned a 15-count felony indictment yesterday charging two individuals with conspiracy, wildlife trafficking and firearms violations stemming from the illegal trapping, killing and selling of bobcats and their pelts, the Justice Department announced.
The indictment charges both Jeffrey M. Bodnar and Veronica Anderson-Bodnar with conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act, two substantive violations of the Lacey Act and two violations of the Lacey Act for false records. Bodnar was also charged with seven firearms violations for possession of a firearm by a felon. Anderson-Bodnar was charged with two violations for transferring firearms to a felon.
The Lacey Act is a federal law that makes it illegal to transport or sell in interstate commerce any wildlife taken, possessed, transported or sold in violation of state law or regulation. Bobcats, whether alive or dead, are considered wildlife under both the Lacey Act and Colorado law.
The indictment alleges that from November 2006 until March 2008, Bodnar and Anderson-Bodnar conspired to knowingly transport and sell bobcat and bobcat pelts in interstate commerce that were unlawfully trapped and killed without a license and using prohibited leghold traps in violation of state law. The two also conspired to knowingly submit false records and accounts of how the bobcats were trapped for tagging by Colorado wildlife officials.
According to the indictment, Bodnar trapped and killed bobcats before, during and after the legal bobcat hunting season at different locations in and around Park County, Colo., including U.S. Forest Service property. He did so without a valid license, used leghold traps that were prohibited and then killed the trapped animals with a firearm.
The indictment further alleges that Anderson-Bodnar on more than one occasion took the bobcat pelts to the Colorado Division of Wildlife Office to be tagged. She provided information to complete the required records for the pelts and falsely certified that each had been taken legally in Colorado.
In 2006, Anderson-Bodnar responded to a newspaper advertisement placed in a Colorado paper by a fur-buyer based in Montana. The indictment alleges multiple transactions thereafter were made across state lines with the fur-buyer from Montana and Bodnar and Anderson-Bodnar.
The indictment also alleges that Bodnar and Anderson-Bodnar sold four bobcat pelts to an undercover U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent at their Colorado residence after the agent stated he was from out of state.
An indictment is merely an accusation, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
The maximum penalty for a felony violation of the Lacey Act includes up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The maximum penalty for the firearms violations includes up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 fine.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Colorado Division of Wildlife. The case is being prosecuted the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado and the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section.