April 24, 2005
Ex-employee gets probation for role in illegal deer hunts
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- A federal judge sentenced a former worker at the
state's largest deer farm to a year of probation for his part in illegal
hunts at the site.
Hinds Tom Jones, of Mississippi, the former property manager at the
1,200-acre deer farm near Peru in Miami County, pleaded guilty in
January to one count of conspiracy to violate federal wildlife laws.
Prosecutors dropped the other charges in a 38-count federal indictment
in return for his testimony against his former employer, Russell G.
Jones also was fined $3,000 during a hearing Friday in federal court in
Defense attorney George Horn read a letter to the court in which Jones
said he would not have taken the job as Bellar's property manager had he
known he would be asked to break the law. Assistant U.S. Attorney Don
Schmid also said Bellar had hired Jones under false pretenses.
"I'm sorry a basically innocent person got sucked into it," said U.S.
District Judge Allen Sharp. He said Jones has no prior criminal record.
Federal grand jurors indicted both men in July, about five months after
state conservation officers and U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials raided
Bellar's preserve about 65 miles north of Indianapolis.
Bellar pleaded guilty to three counts of the indictment Jan. 12, just
hours before closing arguments in his trial in U.S. District Court.
Bellar pleaded guilty to violating the Lacey Act, conspiracy to violate
the Lacey Act and conspiracy to violate federal Food and Drug
As part of the plea agreement, Bellar was to pay about $575,000 in fines
and restitution to keep his deer and the equipment on his farm. But the
state Department of Natural Resources has since refused to renew
Bellar's game breeding permit.
During his trial, clients of Bellar's Place testified they killed more
than one buck during their stays at the farm, shot deer near feeders or
bait piles and often paid more than $10,000 to kill specific
large-antlered deer in small pens, all in violation of Indiana law.
The antlers, skins and occasionally meat from the deer were shipped
across state lines to the homes and businesses of those who paid money
to shoot deer, a violation of the Lacey Act, prosecutors said.
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