April 4, 2013

MDC, Federal Agents Snag Major Paddlefish Poaching Operation



Local conservation agents were among the officers involved in a huge operation that resulted in more than 100 citations and arrests following a two-year investigation into illegal taking and selling of paddlefish and paddlefish eggs. Photo courtesy of MDC

Known as the "Paddlefish Capital of the World," Warsaw, Missouri, is a favorite area for many of Missouri's approximately 16,000 sport paddlefish snaggers because of its location along the Osage River.

Agents with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), including Scotland County agent Gary Miller, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) discovered that the Warsaw area is also a favorite location for paddlefish poachers.

A cooperative undercover investigation by the two agencies recently resulted in more than 100 suspects from Missouri and eight other states being issued citations and/or arrest warrants for state and federal crimes related to paddlefish poaching.

Missouri's official state aquatic animal, paddlefish are an ancient species. Also called spoonbills, they can grow up to seven-feet long and weigh 160 pounds or more. Paddlefish are valued as a sport fish for both their size, and for eating. Paddlefish are also valued for their eggs, or roe, which are eaten as caviar.

The section of the Osage River running along Warsaw in Benton County is a paddlefish hot spot because it is blocked upstream by Truman Dam. When spawning paddlefish reach the dam, their route is blocked and their numbers increase dramatically. This dramatically increases sport anglers' chances of snagging the big fish with a random jerk on a fishing line equipped with large hooks.

This concentration of female paddlefish laden with eggs also makes Warsaw a prime location for paddlefish poachers to get the fish eggs for national and international illegal caviar markets.

"The national and international popularity of Missouri paddlefish eggs as a source of caviar has grown dramatically in recent years," said MDC Protection Chief Larry Yamnitz. "This is a result of European sources of caviar having declined from overfishing of the Caspian Sea's once plentiful and lucrative beluga sturgeon, another species of fish known for its caviar."

Caviar is a delicacy created by preserving fish roe in special salts. According to MDC, about 20 pounds of eggs or more can be harvested from a large, pregnant female paddlefish. Retail prices for paddlefish caviar vary. A current common retail price is about $35 per ounce.

"Caviar prices in illegal or black markets also vary," Yamnitz said. "A common black-market price is about $13 an ounce. Therefore, a single large female paddlefish with about 20 pounds of eggs is carrying about $4,000 worth of potential caviar for black market sales."

Over the course of March 13 and 14, approximately 85 conservation agents of the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), 40 special agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USWFS), and wildlife officers from other states contacted more than 100 suspects in Missouri and eight other states to issue citations, execute arrest warrants, conduct interviews and gather additional information regarding a paddlefish-poaching investigation.

The effort included eight individuals indicted for federal crimes involving the illegal trafficking of paddlefish and their eggs for use as caviar. Other states involved were Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina.

The arrests and citations were the result of a multi-year joint undercover investigation by MDC conservation agents and special agents of the USFWS involving the illegal commercialization of Missouri paddlefish and their eggs for national and international caviar markets. The undercover investigation ran during the spring 2011 and spring 2012 paddlefish seasons, March 15 through April 30. It was based out of Warsaw, Missouri. Additional MDC conservation agents and federal agents supported the undercover operation.

"Sport anglers may only catch two paddlefish daily and the eggs may not be bought, sold or offered for sale," Yamnitz explained. "Extracted paddlefish eggs may not be possessed on waters of the state or adjacent banks and may not be transported. Paddlefish and their eggs may be commercially harvested only from the Mississippi River."

He added that through the undercover operation, agents were able to identify suspects engaged in wildlife violations involving the illegal purchase, resale and transport of paddlefish and their eggs, document other violations of the Missouri Wildlife Code in addition to the core investigation, and determine that paddlefish eggs harvested in Missouri were being illegally transported out of the state for redistribution.

Federal crimes tied to the poaching involve violations of the Lacey Act. The Act makes it a federal crime to poach game in one state with the purpose of selling the bounty in another state and prohibits the transportation of illegally captured or prohibited wildlife across state lines.

MDC and the USFWS worked with the Benton County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, the Benton County Sheriff's Department and the U.S. Department of Justice on the investigation.

Identification of suspects in violation of state wildlife charges is pending legal filings. Copies of the federal indictments may be obtained from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Kansas City.

The investigation began with tips from the public about illegal activities.

"Individuals from the Warsaw area first alerted us to potential paddlefish poaching in the area," said Yamnitz. "We are grateful to them, and encourage anyone spotting suspected illegal fishing or hunting activity to contact their local conservation agent, or call Operation Game Thief at 1-800-392-1111, 24 hours a day. Callers may remain anonymous and rewards are available for information leading to arrests."

Paddlefish are highly valued by both sport anglers and commercial fishermen. Through Missouri Department of Conservation stocking efforts at three large reservoirs, Missouri offers some of the best paddlefish snagging fisheries in the U.S. The reservoirs are at Lake of the Ozarks and its tributaries, Harry S. Truman Reservoir and its tributaries, and Table Rock Lake and its tributaries, primarily the James River arm.

Without MDC's stocking of these fisheries, and other paddlefish management practices, paddlefish numbers would sharply decline in Missouri's reservoirs, reducing opportunities for sport snaggers.

In the past, paddlefish were naturally abundant in Missouri, but their numbers declined because of channelization, damming, impoundments and other river modifications. These modifications have greatly diminished the natural habitat paddlefish need to reproduce in the wild.

Today, paddlefish in Missouri must be stocked. The Missouri Department of Conservation stocks about 45,000 hatchery-produced 10-12-inch-long paddlefish fingerlings each year in Missouri's three main paddlefish locations: Table Rock Lake, Truman Lake and Lake of the Ozarks.

Paddlefish can grow to a length of about seven feet, weigh up to 160 pounds or more, and live 30 years or more. Females grow larger and heavier than males. It takes about 6-8 years for a paddlefish to reach legal harvest size (34-inches) in Missouri's large reservoirs. Female paddlefish reach sexual maturity at 8-10 years and spawn every 2-3 years. Male paddlefish reach sexual maturity at 4-5 years and spawn annually. The egg masses of female paddlefish can be up to 25 percent of their body weight, with a large female paddlefish carrying about 20 pounds of eggs, or roe.

Paddlefish live mostly in open waters of big rivers and were historically found in the Mississippi, Missouri and Osage rivers, along with other streams. Paddlefish spend most of the year dispersed throughout large reservoirs and rivers until warm spring rains increase flows and raise water temperatures, which prompts the big fish to swim upstream on their spawning run. Spawning runs occur in late spring at times of increased water flow. It is triggered by a combination of daylight, water temperature, and water flow.

For more information about paddlefish, visit www.mdc.mo.gov.

Eight Indicted for Trafficking of Paddlefish 'Caviar'



WASHINGTON -Eight individuals face federal charges stemming from a joint U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Missouri Department of Conservation investigation of interstate and international trafficking in paddlefish "caviar," the Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division and the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri announced. Arkadiy Lvovskiy, Dmitri Elitchev, Artour Magdessian, Felix Baravik, Petr Babenko , Bogdan Nahapetyan, Fedor Pakhnyuk, and Andrew Praskovsky have been charged in four, separate indictments in the Western District of Missouri for acts that occurred in 2011 and 2012.

The American paddlefish (Polydon spathula), also called the Mississippi paddlefish or the "spoonbill," is a freshwater fish that is primarily found in the Mississippi River drainage system. Paddlefish eggs are marketed as caviar. Paddlefish were once common in waters throughout the Midwest. However, the global decline in other caviar sources, such as sturgeon, has led to an increased demand for paddlefish caviar. This increased demand has led to over-fishing of paddlefish, and consequent decline of the paddlefish population.

Missouri law prohibits the transportation of paddlefish eggs which have been removed or extracted from a paddlefish carcass. Missouri law also prohibits the sale or purchase, or offer of sale or purchase, of paddlefish eggs. There are also several restrictions on the purchase and possession of whole paddlefish in Missouri.

Among other things, the Lacey Act makes it unlawful for any person to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire or purchase fish that were taken, possessed, transported or sold in violation of any law or regulation of any State, or to attempt to do so. Such conduct constitutes a felony crime if the defendant knowingly engaged in conduct involving the purchase or sale, offer to purchase or sell, or intent to purchase or sell, fish with a market value in excess of $350, knowing that the fish were taken, possessed, transported or sold in violation of, or in a manner unlawful under, a law or regulation of any State.

Arkadiy Lvovskiy, 51, of Aurora, Colorado, Dmitri Elitchev, 46, of Centennial, Colorado, Artour Magdessian, 46, of Lone Tree, Colorado, and Felix Baravik, 48, of Aurora, Colorado, were charged with conspiring with each other, and others, to violate the Lacey Act, and with trafficking in paddlefish and paddlefish eggs in violation of the Lacey Act. The indictment alleges that in the spring of 2011 and 2012, the defendants traveled to Warsaw,

Missouri, where they engaged in multiple, illegal purchases of paddlefish and processed the eggs from those paddlefish into caviar. After processing the paddlefish eggs into caviar, the defendants transported the caviar from Missouri to Colorado. The indictment further alleges that, during the interstate transportation, the defendants engaged in counter-surveillance efforts in order to avoid being detected.

Petr Babenko, 42, of Vineland, New Jersey, and Bogdan Nahapetyan, 33, of Lake Ozark, Missouri, were charged with conspiring with each other and other individuals to violate the Lacey Act, and with trafficking in paddlefish and paddlefish eggs in violation of the Lacey Act. The indictment alleges that between March and April 2012, the defendants traveled to Warsaw, Missouri, where they engaged in multiple, illegal purchases of paddlefish and processed the eggs from those paddlefish into caviar. After processing the paddlefish eggs into caviar, they transported the caviar from Missouri to New Jersey.

Fedor Pakhnyuk, 39, of Hinsdale, Illinois, is charged with two counts of trafficking in paddlefish and paddlefish eggs in violation of the Lacey Act. According to the indictment, in the spring of 2011 and 2012 Pakhnyuk traveled from Illinois to Missouri for the purpose of obtaining paddlefish eggs. The indictment alleges that Pakhnyuk procured paddlefish eggs by purchasing them, and by performing processing services for other persons in exchange for a share of the processed eggs. After processing the paddlefish eggs into caviar, Pakhnyuk transported the caviar from Missouri to Illinois. The indictment alleges that Pakhnyuk also attempted to form an enterprise with other individuals that would market processed paddlefish caviar at markets in Chicago, Illinois.

Andrew Praskovsky, 40, of Erie, Colorado, is charged with two counts of trafficking in paddlefish and paddlefish eggs in violation of the Lacey Act. According to the indictment, in March and April 2012, Praskovsky twice traveled to Warsaw, Missouri, for the purpose of purchasing paddlefish. After processing the paddlefish eggs into caviar, Pakhnyuk transported the caviar from Missouri to Kansas. The indictment alleges that, in April 2012, Praskovsky attempted to export some of the paddlefish eggs in checked luggage on an international flight departing from Dulles International Airport in Washington, DC. The paddlefish eggs were seized at Dulles, as paddlefish eggs may only be exported if they are accompanied by a valid permit issued by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service under the Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

If convicted, the individual defendants face a maximum penalty of five years in prison, and a $250,000 fine per count, as well as forfeiture of any vehicles that were used during the commission of the crimes.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Missouri Department of Conservation, with assistance by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys James B. Nelson and Adam C. Cullman of the Department of Justice's Environmental Crimes Section and Supervisory Assistant U.S. Attorney Lawrence E. Miller of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Missouri.

An indictment is a formal accusation and is not proof of guilt. Defendants are presumed innocent until and unless they are found guilty.

Scotland County Library Presents ‘Build a Better World’ Summer Reading Program

Readers of all ages will explore exciting things this summer as the Scotland County Library presents “Build a Better World” during their summer library program.  The 2017 Summer Reading Program is open to young people ages three through 6th grade with programs and prizes.

Registration for “Build a Better World” begins Monday, June 5th, and the last day to collect prizes will be Friday, July 21st.  Prizes will be awarded based on hours spent reading.

Weekly programs will also be presented at 10:00 a.m. each Wednesday beginning June7th. The first program will feature Jeff Dyer’s presentation of a famous Scotland County resident.  On June 14th, Karen Armstrong of the Missouri Department of Conservation will give an animal presentation.  Other programs will include the Scotland County R-1 FFA presenting a Petting Zoo, Kim Ludwick of the Scotland County Health Department, and Brian Whitney and members of the Memphis and Scotland County Fire Departments.

For more information, call the library at 660-465-7042.  All programs are free of charge.

Residential Terrace Hosts 20th Annual Car Show

The soggy streets and roads didn’t keep 30 diehard vehicles from showing off at the 20th Annual Residential Terrace Car Show on Saturday, May 20th.

The residents of both the Scotland County Care Center and Residential Terrace were thrilled to view the vehicles in the parking lot. The weather threatened rain and was chilly so most viewing was from the many windows. Some brave residents ventured out for a closer look.

Memphis Mayor William Reckenberg awarded Alan Hufford with the Mayor’s Award for his bright yellow 1972 Chevy Nova.

The residents chose a red 1993 Chevy S-10 owned by John and Donna Austin from Memphis as their favorite color.

The vehicle with the most memories was a 1951 Pontiac Chieftain owned by Ewing and Louise Dean from Kirksville.

The fun car award was a 1965 Volkswagen owned by Larry and Michell Balanda from Anchorage, AK.

The fancy car award was a 2015 Chevrolet SS owned by Michell and Larry Balanda from Anchorage, AK.

Peoples’ choice award was a 1955 Chevy Bel Air convertible owned by Gary Harris from Moulton, IA.

Other awards for the top 10 cars, top 3 pickups and top motorcycle were awarded also.

A special plaque was awarded to Jerry Grosenkemper for his volunteering and dedication for the past 20 years of this car show.

As always, the organizers expressed their appreciation to all who helped and participated in this year’s show.

Tague Attends ‘Chosin Few’ Reunion in Springfield

Left to right: Don “Buck” Tague, Dr. Baes Suk Lee, Jong Kook Lee. Baes Suk Lee (center) was part of the Army in Korea, serving as an interpreter – in his capacity to do so – even though he was a youth at the time. He came to the U.S. post Korean War. Jong Kook Lee (right) , the Consulate General of the Republic of (South) Korea , stationed in Chicago, presented Tague (and other veterans) with the Korean Government’s Ambassador of Peace Medal at this reunion.

submitted by Sandra Kalman

Don “Buck” Tague of Gorin attended a Korean War battle reunion in Springfield, Missouri, May 18 to 20.

Commemorating the Korean War Battle of Chosin Reservoir, survivors of that battle have taken to calling themselves: “The Chosin Few.”

This particular reunion was the U.S. Army Chapter reunion of The Chosen Few – another association holds reunions for both Marines and Army survivors together and Tague attends those Korean War reunions too.  He also attends World War II reunions with his Patton’s Third Army 65th Infantry Division Association.

The Battle of Chosin Reservoir lasted from late November, 1950, until the end of December, making this reunion not quite 67 years post battle.  Details of the battle are not pretty.  Tague played a part in the Army’s 79th Construction Engineering Battalion in Korea.

An interesting editorial written about this reunion by a local Springfield physician, Yung Hwang, M. D., published prior to the reunion, said the purpose of this reunion was “To honor the surviving veterans and the memory of those who died during that decisive battle…”

Hwang said:  “On the eve of Chosin Few coming to town, the Korean community will warmly welcome and happily join in their memorial service as we are also hoping North Korean and Chinese communism will stop their bad behaviors against the world.”

Several highlights of the reunion are described in text accompanying photographs in a Fathers’ Day ad, placed here by Tague’s proud children.

About the general feeling of the reunion, Buck’s son, David, said:  “They were glad to be here.”

Scotland County Senior Nutrition Center

MENU

Thursday, May 25 – Roast Pork, Mashed Potatoes/Gravy, Sauerkraut, Cranberry Sauce, Slice Bread, Pudding

Friday, May 26 – Fish Fillets, Sweet Potatoes, Broccoli Salad, Peas, Cornbread, Cream Pie

Monday, May 29 – Memorial Day, Center Closed, No Meals

Tuesday, May 30 – BBQ or Plain Pork/Bun, Scalloped Potatoes, Cauliflower Blend Veggies, Pears, Cookies

Wednesday, May 31 – Chicken Strips, Mashed Potatoes/Gravy, Buttered Corn, Bread, Fruit Salad

Thursday, June 1 – Ham and Beans, Carrot-Pineapple Salad, Buttered Beets, Cornbread, Cake

ACTIVITIES

Thursday, May 25 – Card Party at 5:00 p.m.

Monday, May 29 – Memorial Day, Center Closed

Thursday, June 1 – Card Party at 5:00 p.m.

Regularly Scheduled Audit of Scotland County Underway

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo (May 19, 2017) Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway has announced her office has started work on audits of Scotland and Mercer counties, located in northern Missouri.  Audit staff is on-site in both locations, and Auditor Galloway encouraged citizens to submit concerns or information through the dedicated hotline.

“The public deserves a government that is transparent and works efficiently on behalf of its citizens,” Auditor Galloway said. “These audits will provide an independent review, and I encourage anyone who has information to contact my Whistleblower Hotline.”

The most recent audits of Scotland and Mercer counties were completed in 2013 and both counties received good ratings.

Individuals who would like to provide information for consideration in this or any audit may contact the State Auditor’s Whistleblower Hotline at moaudit@auditor.mo.gov or by calling 800-347-8597. Concerns may also be submitted anonymously online at auditor.mo.gov/hotline.

MLRA Late Models to Highlight June 1st Races at Scotland County Speedway

Racing action will return to Scotland County Speedway next week as the Lucas Oil Midwest Late Model Racing Association will kick off a three-day circuit across northeast Missouri and southeast Iowa with a stop in Memphis on Thursday, June 1st.

The MLRA event will highlight a full schedule of events at SCS, paying $3,000 to win the late model feature. Modifieds, sport models and stock cars will all be racing for a $1,000 top prize with sport compacts battling for a $300 payday.

The track will be open from 2 to 4 p.m. for practice at $25 per car. The gates will open at 5:30 p.m. with hot laps at 7 p.m.

The local event is being sponsored by J & J Ag, Memphis Pepsi-Cola, Brain’s Foundation Repair and Crop Production Services.

The MLRA will be racing May 25-27th in Wheatland, MO. After the Memphis stop, the late models will be in action Friday night at Lee County Speedway in Donnellson, IA before heading to Randolph County Speedway in Moberly on Saturday.

On May 4th-6th the circuit was in Iowa, racing at Lee County Speedway, Davenport and Independence with Chris Simpson, Bobby Pierce and Billy Moyer all picking up wins. Thus far in 2017, five races in the books have generated five different winners for the MLRA.

Rush Releases Latest Book ‘You Can’t Make This Stuff Up!!’

Pastor Terry Rush is no stranger to the people of his hometown, Memphis. But while Scotland County residents may know Rush from his frequent visits back home for speaking engagements, or as readers of his newspaper column of one of his books, his latest release starts with a revealing confession.

“All I ever wanted to be was famous.” That is the statement Rush offers to open “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up!!”, his newest book fresh off the press.

Of course that confession was made tongue-in-cheek to the high school guidance counselor, as Rush was clinging to his dream of one day becoming a St. Louis Cardinal. Fittingly enough, he offered stand-up comedian, as his backup plan.

It turns out, God had other plans for Terry. While his professional baseball career never took off, Rush has had plenty of brushes with the fame he joked about.

After offering more than a dozen publication’s Rush penned his latest book in which he reveals how God has continued to send him to the right place at the right time, over and over again, to minister to the famous.

“In my younger days, I would never have guessed that the famous need and want spiritual and emotional support,” said Rush. “Surprised me. We tend to think they’ve got it made. Think again. They need people who care; just as we do.”

It has been the stories of meeting some of these needs that has led Rush to fulfill the new book’s subtitle, “Experiencing God Beyond Imagination”.

“I love people,” Rush says in the opening chapter of the book. “The famous have been ignored because it seems they are assumed to be both unneedy and unreachable. Fans just figure they have no problems.”

Rush goes on to explain in the book that his stardom, didn’t come from becoming a St. Louis Cardinal baseball player as he dreamed of as a young man, but instead only after he became a pastor in Tulsa, Oklahoma and happened upon an ad for adults to attend a Cardinals Baseball Camp to play alongside past and current stars and coaches.

“When I read this article about playing baseball with these heroes, I wondered if God would use me to encourage them,” Rush says in the book. “As I thought of the possibilities, I wept.”

Little did he know that the Legends Camp would only be the beginning of the multitude of opportunities the Lord presented for Rush to interact with the famous and offer God’s encouragement. “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up” is a collection of stories about “chance” meetings Rush has had with a number of celebrities from the movies, sports, politics, the music industry and television. The book is packed with amazing encounters that surely cannot be true, yet they are. These things couldn’t happen to a man from rural northeast Missouri, yet they did.

The book is chocked full of such unbelievable experiences that have put Rush in the presence of the likes of Charlton Heston, Loretta Lynn and James MacArthur.

It is through these experiences that Rush has learned that we are all alike, adding that everyone has confidences that are often undermined by fears. The author sais he hopes his latest book will open readers’ hearts to new possibility and potential.

Copies of you “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up!!” are available at J’s Foods in Memphis or can be ordered directly from Kelly Press, Inc. by calling 573-449-4163 or by emailing colin@kellypressinc.com.

Judge DeMarce to Address 71st Annual Memorial Day Services

Judge Karl DeMarce will be the featured speaker on Monday as the Wallace W. Gillespie Memorial Post #4958 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars hosts the 71st Annual Memorial Day Services on the lawn of the Scotland County Courthouse.

The services will begin at 10 a.m. with Post Commander Lloyd Erickson and program chairman Donnie Middleton welcoming the crowd.

Veterans Flody C. Baker and Mike Stephenson will perform the traditional wreath placement at the soldiers’ memorial on the southeast side of the courthouse. Fellow serviceman Bill Camp will lead the gathering the Pledge of Allegiance.

Pastor Leon Buford, also a Scotland County veteran, will lead the invocation prior to the playing of the National Anthem by the Scotland County R-I band. The Memphis Community Players will keep the music flowing with a series of patriotic selections.

Judge Gary Dial will again have the honor of introducing the service’s guest speaker.

Following DeMarce’s speech, veteran Jamie Parker will sing Sleep Soldier Boy accompanied by Connie Courtney.

Following the benediction by Buford, the VFW members will present a 21 gun salute before the performance of taps by service member Melinda Briggs with ECHO played by Chris Kempke.

The service is open to the public. In case of inclement weather, the program will be moved indoors at the VFW post.

Gorin American Legion Post Plans Memorial Day Gathering

The Leslie Chambers #395 Gorin American Legion Post will be hosting their annual Memorial Day gathering on Sunday, May 28.  There will be a carry-in dinner at 12:30 at the Gorin Christian Church with a program following the dinner. The Post will present military services at the Gorin Cemetery at 2:00 p.m. and everyone is invited.

BABY FUNK

Casey and April Funk of Coatsville, MO are the parents of a son, Carter Bret Funk, born May 10, 2017 at 8:16 a.m. at Scotland County Hospital in Memphis. Carter weighed 7 lbs 1.8 oz and was 20.75 inches long. He has a sibling, Caley Archer. Grandparents are Chris and Ida Archer of Moulton, IA; Ralph Funk of Coatsville, MO; and Judy Funk of Coatsville, MO.

BABY KEEFE

Kara Ball of Kahoka and Johnathon Keefe of Kahoka are the parents of a son, Michael Raymond Keefe, born May 16, 2017 at 6:28 a.m. at Scotland County Hospital in Memphis. Michael weighed 7 lbs 2.8 oz and was 21 inches long. Grandparents are David and Stacie Parson of Lawrence, Patrick Keefe of Keokuk, and Alicia Boyd of Eureka.

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