Investigation alleges massive poaching operation

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley reports that one of the largest Ohio wildlife poaching operations ever uncovered has been stopped.
Wildlife officers conducted a two-year investigation alleging that ringleader John Zayac, 70, of Broadview Heights, worked with seven others to intentionally falsify information to the state of Ohio regarding the number of deer they bagged as required by law.
This alleged deer-poaching enterprise that saw hundreds of animals illegally killed, resulting in nearly 3,000 pounds of deer meat and netting of thousands of dollars in personal profits, is a theft from everyone who enjoys both watching and hunting whitetails.
Co-defendants include Zayac’s wife, Rebecca Gregerson; Terrance Ankrom and his wife, Tina of Kent; John Stofan of North Royalton; John Frost of Brecksville; Todd Neczeporenko of Jefferson; and Craig Steed of Newton Falls.
The eight were indicted in what has been reported as Ohio’s largest deer-poaching enterprise for illegal hunting in Brecksville, North Royalton, Broadview Heights and Richfield, with deer being processed in Ashtabula County.
“The Ohio Department of Natural Resources should be commended for their diligence,” O’Malley said. “This investigation took time and patience to show that these individuals were illegally and egregiously stealing natural resources from our great state.”
The investigation alleges that Zayac organized “deer drives” and allowed the co-defendants to bring the poached deer to his property to be skinned and dressed for processing. Zayac made the arrangements with the processors and decided the form in which the meat would be processed, according to the investigation.
The large quantities of meat were produced without the proper tags, rendering it unlawful to sell.
The defendants would allegedly kill more than the allotted one buck per license, which is called “overbagging.”
To produce more meat, they would allegedly kill multiple bucks each season and report them as does. Zayac and Gregerson are said to have falsified online records regarding the number of deer they bagged.
The Ankroms are accused of illegally overbagging deer and falsifying their hunting activities, as well as the activities of their son-in-law Steed’s tags and the tags of Terrance’s father-in-law.
The same activity was mirrored by John Stofan, who allegedly used John Frost’s tags to overbag and falsely report his numbers to the state.
Further investigation indicates that Stofan, contrary to the deer-hunting laws in the state of Ohio, would allegedly lure deer to his property at night by placing corn near motion-activated lights so he could easily shoot them.
Neczeporenko, the owner of Smokin’ T’s in Jefferson, allegedly accepted and paid for the large quantities of deer meat without the appropriate tags brought in by Zayac and processed the meat.
“Man, when perfected, is the best of animals, but when separated from law and justice, he is the worst of all.” — Aristotle

Along the way
Matt Misicka, Ohio Conservation Federation president, reports that Ohio Sens. Kevin Bacon and Matt Dolan have submitted an amendment to the budget bill that would affect hunting, fishing and permit prices.
These fees were selected after consultation with outdoor economics and demographic experts, Southwick and Associates, with goals of minimizing decreases in participation while appreciably increasing revenue. Only five licenses are proposed to increase and a new nonresident deer-hunting permit would be established.
Here are the details:
Residents
$5 increase in deer permit to $29.
$5 increase in turkey permit to $29. (Nonresidents would be eligible to buy this permit. Cost for nonresidents to take one turkey is $204.)
$5 increase in resident annual fishing license to $24.
No other increases were proposed for resident licenses.
Nonresidents
$50 increase in nonresident annual hunting license to $175.
$75 for newly established nonresident deer permit. (Total cost for a nonresident deer hunter to take one deer is $250.)
$10 increase in annual nonresident fishing license to $50.
Ohio sportsmen and women have a long and proud history of funding conservation, allowing professionals to effectively manage both game and non-game wildlife species around the state. Their money helps the Division of Wildlife to be self-funded and less apt to be plied by special interests or to have money diverted away from the goals of conservation.
If you are interested in preserving our wildlife heritage and are willing to see this modest increase in fees, the first increase in 14 years, consider contacting these important state senators who serve us on the Finance Committee.
• Larry Obhof: obhof@ohiosenate.gov; Senate Building, 1 Capitol Square, 2nd Floor, Columbus 43215.
• Bob Peterson: peterson@ohiosenate.gov; Senate Building, 1 Capitol Square, 1st Floor, Columbus 43215.
• Randy Gardner: gardner@ohiosenate.gov; Senate Building, 1 Capitol Square, 2nd Floor, Columbus 43215.
• Gayle Manning: manning@ohiosenate.gov; Senate Building, 1 Capitol Square, 1st Floor, Columbus 43215.
• Scott Oelslager: oelslager@ohiosenate.gov; Senate Building, 1 Capitol Square, 1st Floor, Columbus 43215.

Step outside
• Today: 3-Gun Nation shoot, UCOA, 6943 Marion Township 243, Findlay. The match will start at noon, spectators welcome. To learn about this exciting shooting game, visit www.ucoa3gun.com.
• Thursday and Friday: Trap and skeet, open to the public, 5 p.m., UCOA, 6943 Marion Township 243, Findlay.
Abrams is a retired wildlife officer supervisor for the state Division of Wildlife in Findlay. He can be reached at P.O. Box 413, Mount Blanchard 45867-0413 or via email at jimsfieldnotes@aol.com.



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