TYLER, TX (News Release) - After a lengthy four year investigation a 77-year-old Cherokee County, Texas licensed deer breeder has pleaded guilty to illegally transporting wildlife in the Eastern District of Texas and then lying about it to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife agent, announced U.S. Attorney John M. Bales today.
Billy Powell pleaded guilty on June 14, 2011, to the felony offense of smuggling at least 37 whitetail deer, over a 3 year time span, from Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio into Texas in violation of state and federal laws. Powell also admitted that he made a false statement and submitted a false document to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife special agent who was looking into the matter. Powell has agreed to pay a $1 million fine, to be deposited into the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Lacy Act Reward Fund, as well as $500,000 in restitution to Texas Parks and Wildlife, on his sentencing date. Powell's agreement with the government calls for Powell to serve 3 years probation with six months of home confinement which will be monitored with an electric anklet. During the term of probation, Powell will be prohibited from participating in any manner in commercial deer breeding. Additionally, Powell must forfeit any illegally imported deer, any progeny of those deer, and any biological material derived from said deer, which would include any semen, antlers, mounts, and cloned deer. Powell has already forfeited over 1,300 straws of frozen semen valued at approximately $961,500 to U.S. Fish and Wildlife.
According to information presented in court, on at least four separate occasions, spanning from October 2006 through June 2008, Powell knowingly imported at least 37 live whitetail deer, many of whom came from captive deer farms in Ligonier, Indiana, into the state of Texas and to his "5-P Farms", high fenced deer breeding facility in Cherokee County Texas. These deer included bucks known as "Fat Boy" aka "Barry", "Silver Storm" aka "Hit Man", "Y 009", "Eagle Storm" aka "BJ", "Thunderstruck", "High Five", and "Primer" aka "Spikes". At all times Powell knew that Texas law prohibited any person from possessing a deer acquired from an out-of-state source. In spite of this, Powell agreed to participate in the above-described transactions in which whitetail deer would be secretly transported from Illinois, Indiana, and/or Pennsylvania, to Texas in order to evade Texas laws and regulations.
Powell further admitted that he lied to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Special Agent during a voluntary statement at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Tyler, Texas. Powell told the agent that he had illegally imported approximately 35 white-tailed deer into the state of Texas when in fact he knew that he had illegally imported no less than 41 white-tailed deer, including 6 white-tail deer fawns. During the same statement, Powell also submitted lists identifying 35 white-tailed deer as the total number of white-tailed deer that he had illegally imported into the state of Texas when he knew that he had actually illegally imported no less than 41 white-tailed, including 6 white-tail deer fawns.
Findings of the investigation also prompted the Wildlife Division of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to conduct an epidemiological investigation in consultation with veterinarians and wildlife disease experts from Texas Animal Health Commission, Texas Department of State Health Services, and Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and accredited veterinarians actively involved in the deer breeding industry. This process was carried out in three separate phases. Ultimately all 334 deer contained in Powell's deer breeding facility were euthanized to facilitate testing for chronic wasting disease (CWD) and bovine tuberculosis (TB). This process was necessary in order to provide an acceptable level of assurance that neither disease was prevalent in Powell's deer breeding facility nor in any deer breeding facility that had received deer from Powell's facility since October 2004.
Since no live-animal test for CWD exists, TPWD consulted with trained experts to ensure the most humane euthanasia method and treatment of the animals was used. Texas Parks and Wildlife officials are presently awaiting the test results for the tissue samples submitted to the Texas Veterinarian Medical Diagnostic Laboratory located in College Station, TX