Haines guide to plead guilty to federal charges for hunting violations

A Haines man is expected to take a plea deal with federal authorities over several criminal charges stemming from his activity as a big game hunting guide.

Ronald Martin, 73, is charged with five counts, including wildlife trafficking, false statements concerning wildlife and violating the federal Lacey Act, which outlaws transporting or selling illegally taken game.

At least a dozen state and federal agents went to Haines in October 2011 and seized records, hides, hunting equipment, as well as boats and a plane associated with Martin and assistant guides who worked for him. Since then, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have been building a case.

According to documents filed in U.S. District Court, Martin is alleged to have violated federal law on several guided hunts between 2002 and May of 2011. Martin was a guide for black and brown bear and mountain goat for at least a dozen clients during that time, mostly from Alberta and Utah. An undercover federal agent also took part in a hunt in the course of the investigation.

In several of the hunts, Martin is accused of falsifying the sealing certificates and hunt records, claiming brown bears were taken in a different places than where they had actually been shot. Federal authorities allege many of the brown bears were taken at unregistered black bear bait stations. Martin is also accused of leaving clients to hunt alone, failing to salvage meat from goats or bears and other record falsifications.

The charges carry up to 5 years in prison, a maximum quarter million dollar fine and three years’ probation.

But Martin signed a plea agreement on May 1st. In exchange for Martin’s guilty plea, the federal prosecutor agrees to recommend probation and a $40,000 fine and a suspension of hunting rights for three years. Martin also agrees to plead guilty to two less serious hunting violations in state court.

Martin’s guiding license expired at the end of 2011. He was charged with other hunting violations in state court in the 1990s, while his license was on probation.

Charges have not been filed against the assistant guide mentioned in Martin’s court documents.

Martin is expected to appear in U.S. District Court in Juneau on May 31st to formally enter his guilty plea. The prosecutor in the case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Schmidt, said he would not comment on the lengthy investigation or case until then. Neither Martin nor his attorney could be reached for comment.