Haines guide sentenced in federal hunting case

A multi-year, international investigation into illegal bear and goat hunts has led to a longtime big game guide from Haines being sentenced to four years of probation and fined $40,000.

Ronald Martin, 72, pled guilty and was sentenced Tuesday in U.S. District Court after admitting to multiple illegal hunts, falsifying documents, and importing illegally taken wildlife between Canada and the U.S.

According to assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Schmidt, the joint U.S. and Canada investigation was dubbed “Operation Bruin.”

Law enforcement documented ten illegal brown bear hunts, three illegal black bear hunts and four illegal mountain goat hunts. The violations involved Martin allowing his Canadian and American clients to take brown bears after illegally baiting them, hunting without proper licenses, and failure to be present with the clients during some of the hunts. Schmidt said it was also discovered Martin and his clients would then falsify records to smuggle wildlife hides, furs, horns and meat into Canada.

The violations spanned nine years from 2002 through 2011.

Transporting illegally taken game across state and international borders triggers a violation of federal law, known as the Lacey Act, and Canadian law. Schmidt said that’s when the U.S. Attorney’s office got involved

The Lacey Act is to prevent the commercialization of wildlife trafficking. Lacey violations can occurred in several different ways. In this particular case there was underlying state law violations. When those state law violations include the trafficking of those illegally harvested wildlife then it becomes in the purview of the federal government.”

The investigation resulted in 17 Canadians being charged with 55 violations. Some of them have also been charged in the U.S.

It was a very long investigation, over several years dealing with multiple agencies and international law enforcement agencies so it did take a long time to get all the evidence in this particular case.”

Martin has been a big game guide for more than 30 years in Haines.

During his four-year probation, he can’t hunt in the U.S. or anywhere else in the world for two years or provide any guiding-related services. His fine of $40,000 includes $30,000 suspended which means he has $10,000 to pay.

Martin was also sentenced in state court earlier this year. As part of that conviction he forfeited his Piper airplane, a pickup, an ATV and several weapons. His hunting license is revoked until 2016 and he surrendered his guide license for life.

Another Haines guide is also facing charges in the investigation. Martin’s step-brother, John Katzeek, and three of his Canadian clients have been indicted in U.S. District court and charged with conspiracy and smuggling violations related to illegal hunts. Katzeek is also a board member of the Upper Lynn Canal Fish and Game Advisory Board.