April 2007

NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife
Monthly Highlights
Bureau of Law Enforcement

Northern Region Highlights

CO Paul recently got a conviction in a Morris Township, Morris County court for a resident who had offered a mounted bobcat for sale on E-bay. The individual who had previously been charged with a violation of the commercialization of wildlife statute plead guilty to one count of NJSA 23:2A-6 Possess wildlife parts listed as NJ endangered species. A penalty of $250.00 was assessed. Additionally, Officer Paul, during the course of her investigation, uncovered incidents of white-tailed deer antlers and heads offered for sale on the popular website. The deer cases were turned over to the appropriate area Conservation Officer for investigation.

Lieutenants Cole and Fletcher and Captain Cussen recently completed background investigations of three individuals for possible recruitment as new Conservation Officers.

CO Applegate made a presentation to twenty-five boy scouts at a meeting in Baptisttown, Hunterdon County. The focus of the presentation was the role of Conservation Officer within the Division of Fish and Wildlife.

CO Applegate and Lieutenant Cole assisted with the search for an escaped bank robbery suspect in Readington Township in Hunterdon County. The manhunt was in conjunction with the accidental shooting of an FBI Agent during the incident. The suspect had fled the scene onto South Branch WMA, a swampy lowland, and was later apprehended at a nearby motel.

CO Panico investigated a complaint of suspicious activity at Columbia Lake WMA in Warren County and discovered two fish traps set in the Paulinskill River. The traps were similar to large minnow traps, except that they were three feet by eight feet in structure and contained approximately 557 suckers. The fish were released, traps removed and the investigation continues.

Northern Region Personnel recently took the lead in Black Bear Feeding Enforcement Sweeps conducted in ten communities in Bergen, Morris, Sussex and Warren Counties. The purpose of the sweeps was to monitor compliance to NJSA 23:2A-14 which prohibits the intentional feeding of black bears as well as improper storage of bear attractants. Over the two day operation, 1661 households were contacted by a force of thirty-five DEP representatives. Thirty-eight verbal warnings were issued, and forty-three cases were referred to Conservation Officers for further investigation and possible issuance of written warnings. A written warning is required by statute prior to the signing of a complaint. Bureau personnel involved in the operation include: Senior Comm. Operator Colao and Wildlife Technician Sutton - logistical support, COs Hutchinson and Panico and Lt. Fletcher - team leaders, Lt. Cole and COs Applegate, Nestel and Williamson, Deputies Mortensen, Schliefer and Struble – inspectors. In addition, Sgt. Neate and Officer Viggiano of NJ Park Police as well as twenty-three DEP Enforcement and Compliance inspectors participated.

CO Panico detected an oily sheen accompanied by a strong chemical odor on a recent patrol of the Musconetcong River in Bloomsbury. The officer traced the discharge to its source; a malfunctioning oil water separator at a nearby truck stop. CO Panico documented the event and turned the case over for further investigation by appropriate DEP authorities.

CO Nestel is investigating an Off Road Vehicle complaint at Walpack WMA in Sussex County. The vehicle is a four wheel drive passenger vehicle stuck in a swampy area far from existing roads. The vehicle has been stuck on the property for several weeks. The officer is working with the owner and Bureau of Lands Management personnel to solve the problem. Complaints and property damage will be dealt with upon completion of the extraction.

On the Opening Day of Trout Season, CO Kuechler and Lt. Cole investigated a complaint of a Plainfield, Union County fish market offering striped bass for sale. One twenty-eight inch fish was found in the showcase and seized. The appropriate complaint was signed.

CO Paul assisted Emergency Response with a pollution complaint on the Lamington River in Somerset County. A harmless dye was identified as the cause.

Following up on a complaint received at the NRO regarding possible bag limit violations at Seeley’s Pond in Union County, CO Kuechler apprehended two individuals in possession of twenty-eight trout. Complaints were signed for both fishermen.

A dumping complaint in Alexandria Township in Hunterdon County involving deer parts and several pieces of mail was investigated by COs Applegate and Panico and Lieutenant Cole. The person to whom the mail was addressed was ultimately tracked down and admitted that the deer had not been legally registered. CO Panico singed a complaint for possession of unregistered deer parts.

Wildlife Technician Steven Sutton and Captain Cussen assisted Lieutenant Brown with a Black Bear Response Law Enforcement training class in Byram Township in Sussex County. The class sponsored by the Stillwater Police Department was attended by nineteen officers from five agencies.

Central Region Highlights

CO’s Szalaj and O’Rourke received information regarding an individual in Willingboro who was collecting turtles from the wild as well as collecting road kill animals. After compiling all the information, CO Szalaj was able to obtain a search warrant for the residence. CO’s Szalaj, O’Rourke, Martiak, McManus and Mutone and Lt. Lacroix executed the search warrant. The evidence seized included: 2 deer heads, 1 mounted Canada goose, 1 mounted wild turkey, 9 live Eastern box turtles, 14 dead Eastern box turtles, and 4 live spotted turtles. The live turtles were all in very bad health and were transferred to a licensed rehabilitator. The subject was charged with possession and collection of non-game species as well as the possession of the wildlife species.

CO Martiak was on patrol in Manalapan Twp. when he encountered two individuals fishing without licenses. Upon verification of identification, it was determined that one of the individuals had an outstanding warrant out of Freehold. Manalapan Twp. Police Department assisted and took the individual into custody. The appropriate summonses were issued by Officer Martiak.

CO’s Martiak and Szulecki assisted the Northern Region at the Pequest Open House the last weekend in March.

CO’s Martiak and Mutone and Lt. Lacroix conducted a patrol at the Colliers Mills WMA. Of particular interest was a “party spot” that had been located a couple of months earlier where a large number of trees had been cut down and burned. Upon approach of the area, headlights were seen in the woods. When the officers pulled into the area, there were three vehicles and five people on scene. A very large pile of freshly cut tree branches and wooden pallets were ready for a bonfire. One of the trucks was still loaded with a large number of pallets. Moments after the officers arrived, two more vehicles pulled in. Nine individuals were checked and eight individuals were issued summonses for after hours, building a fire, possession of alcohol, and motor vehicle violations.

CO McManus was on patrol during the closed waters when he observed five individuals fishing at Dam site 5 on the Assunpink Creek. The individuals were not cooperative and one tried dumping what appeared to be fish into the water as the officer approached. A total of 8 summonses were issued for closed waters, littering, no fishing licenses and procuring a resident license wrongfully.

CO O’Rourke was on patrol at the Pemberton WMA when he encountered two very intoxicated men. They were in possession of alcoholic beverages and had built a campfire. Numerous bottles were observed floating nearby in the lake. After initially denying that they had thrown the bottles in the lake, the men finally admitted that the bottles were theirs. The appropriate summonses were issued.

Lt. Sich apprehended three fishermen in Jackson Twp. who decided to get a 5 day head start on trout season. After locating their vehicle hidden in a wooded section along the Metedeconk River, the officer followed tracks that led him to a remote section of the river where he observed three subjects fishing in the closed trout stocked waters. Two of the subjects had no fishing licenses or trout stamps and the third individual had procured a NJ Resident Fishing License wrongfully. All three subjects acknowledged the fact that they were aware of the fishing laws as they relate to trout stocked waters and in fact one of them worked at a local bait and tackle store. The appropriate summonses were issued.

On the opening day of trout season Officer Szulecki and Deputy Depierro conducted a foot patrol of a remote section of the Manasquan River. As they proceeded down a small path that led to the rivers edge, they noticed that a local resident had become very interested in what they were doing. In fact, the woman began to follow the officers down the trail. Just before reaching the area they were intending to check, they were able to observe three individuals fishing. When they looked back at the woman who was following them, they noticed that she was now calling someone on her cell phone. As the phone was ringing they observed one of the fishermen in the group answer his cell phone, look around, walk over to the woods, put down his fishing pole and then walk back over to his friends. When the officers inspected the group, the subject that they had been watching had no license or trout stamp and claimed that he wasn’t fishing. When the officer confronted him with his observations, the subject finally admitted to illegally fishing and confirmed that the girl following them had warned him of the officers approach. The appropriate summons was issued.

After receiving a complaint that a subject fishing at Hamilton Park Pond located in Neptune was keeping over the legal limit of trout, Officer Szulecki set up on the suspect and observed him from a concealed location. From his position, Officer Szulecki noticed that when the fisherman caught a trout he would then pass it off to another person who was sitting on a bench. When CO Szulecki approached and inspected the fishermen he found that the suspect had his limit of trout hidden in a bucket. Any other trout caught were quickly given away. According to witnesses, the subject had given away a number of trout prior to the officers arrival. A summons was issued for taking over the legal limit of trout.

Officer Tonnesen responded to a complaint from a local fisherman that a foul odor was coming from a section of the Metedeconk River located in Howell Twp. When the CO arrived on scene the smell was over whelming and he noticed a trail of what appeared to be raw sewage coming from a restaurants septic tank and draining into the trout stocked waters of the Metedeconk. After documenting and photographing evidence found at the scene he confronted the owners of the restaurant. They acknowledged that they had allowed the sewage to flow into the stream but said that it wouldn’t happen again. The officer then contacted the Monmouth County Health Department for assistance and was advised that the restaurant owner had a long history of violations stemming from the faulty septic system. Charges are pending and the two agencies are working together to resolve the situation.

Southern Region Highlights

Conservation Officer Honachefsky and the Atlantic County Prosecutors Office were able to secure an indictment on a Folsom Township, Atlantic County man charged with commercialization of wildlife. It’s yet to be determined if the commercialization case and the associated illegal possession of deer parts charges will be prosecuted by the county in superior court or if the case will be remanded to municipal court.

Conservation Officer Massey received an indictment on an individual that he charged for unlawfully possessing a handgun, resisting arrest and numerous other charges. The subject has been held because this was a violation of his parole and he is currently involved in a case where he was charged with the distribution of narcotics.

Conservation Officer Ely was able to apprehend two trappers in Dennis Township, Cape May County for trapping after the legal season and failing to tend traps. The first subject admitted that the traps belonged to him and stated that he must have forgotten the location of the traps. Before the interview started CO Ely was able to identify similar stakes located adjacent to the trapper’s trailer that matched those located on the meadow. The second trapper lived quite a distance away from the area where the traps were located. The second trapper again admitted that the sets were his and became irate when CO Ely informed him that he was going to be charged. The appropriate summonses have been issued.

During a routine patrol in Downe Township, Conservation Officer Honachefsky observed a juvenile carrying two turkeys in his driveway. When he was approached, the juvenile stated that he shot one bird and that another juvenile shot the second bird. When the licensed adult on the hunt, the subject’s uncle, was interviewed he stated that the juvenile had shot both birds by accident. Decisions regarding prosecution are pending.

While on routine patrol at Shaws Mill Pond, Bevans Wildlife Management Area, Lawrence Township, Cumberland County, Conservation Officer Batten observed a vehicle being operated in a reckless manner. After observing the vehicle skid and throw rocks on two pedestrians CO Batten pulled the vehicle over. As CO Batten approached the driver, he could smell alcohol and as the driver of the vehicle exited the truck it was very apparent the driver was under the influence. The driver was immediately taken into custody and the New Jersey State Police responded. The State Police charged the operator with the DWI and CO Batten charged him with motor vehicle violations and WMA charges. The female passenger of the vehicle was also intoxicated and was charged with WMA violations.

CO Risher responded to a call about an injured osprey in a backyard in Elmer, Salem County. He captured the bird and transported it to a rehabilitator. The bird didn’t have any broken bones but was dehydrated and extremely thin.

One night after a long day of patrol CO Vazquez received a call from Winslow Police Department, Camden County. The police had a complaint of a party at Penbryn Lake WMA. CO Vazquez responded and apprehended 30 young people who were having a party. They had thrown the keg of beer in the lake when they saw him coming. They also had a bonfire and were on the management area after 9:00 PM. CO Vazquez issued the appropriate summonses.

On routine patrol in the Winslow Wildlife Management Area CO Vazquez discovered a man who had used his car to commit suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning.

Lt. Leonard gave a talk to the Street Law Class at Schalick High School in Salem County. The topic was on Conservation Officers and Wildlife Laws in New Jersey.

Marine Enforcement Highlights

On the evening of March 25, 2007, Conservation Officers Fittin and Sennick apprehended an individual illegally harvesting hard clams under the cover of darkness from the polluted waters of the Shark River. The individual, an owner of a seafood business, was apprehended on his way back to his refrigerated van with approximately 50 hard clams contained in an onion skin bag. The individual was charged with harvesting and possessing shellfish from a prohibited area, clamming without a license, clamming on Sunday, and clamming between the hours of sunset and sunrise.

On April 14, 2007, Conservation Officer Joseph Soell received a phone call from a Bayville resident regarding crab pots set illegally in a man-made lagoon. Upon investigation, CO Soell found two crab pots which were indeed set in a man-made lagoon contrary to law. Having retrieved his grappling hook from his patrol boat, CO Soell was able to pull both crab pots to shore. Then returning to patrol, he found another similar pot set in a nearby area. While attempting to retrieve that crab pot, he observed an individual in a boat approach the pot. The individual asked him (Soell) if he was with the “Marine Police”. Upon finding out that CO Soell was a State Conservation Officer, this individual told him that he had just had two crab pots stolen in a nearby lagoon. CO Soell asked the individual for his personal information and then informed him that he had taken his crab pots because they had been set illegally. Further investigation and interview by CO Soell revealed that the individual was fishing these crab pots with a 2006 recreational license and that besides being expired, he would only be allowed to fish two crab pots, not three. Additionally, the individual’s boat registration was expired. CO Soell issued the individual one summons for setting crab pots in a man-made lagoon and requested that the individual buy a 2007 recreational crab pot license and fax a copy to the Marine Regional Office.

On Saturday, April 14, 2007 Officers Canale and James conducted a boat patrol in Lakes Bay, Atlantic County. The officers noticed several crab pots set by two different commercial crabbers that had already tended their pots that day. The officers randomly tagged four crab pots from each crabber to determine when the crabbers next tend was. On Wednesday, April 18, 2007 Officer Canale and Lt. Yunghans checked all eight pots and the tags were not removed. Commercial crab pot regulations require that crab pots be tended at least once every 72 hours. The investigation determined that the crabbers returned on April 19th which meant the crab pots were not checked at all in a 120 hour timeframe. Summonses will be issued to each crabber for failure to tend crab pots in a 72 hour period.

Training Highlights

Lt. Brown and Captain Boyle assisted with a basic firearms course at the division of Criminal Justice Academy at Sea Girt.

The Bureau hosted a two day seminar by Armor Holdings at the Colliers Mills Training Center. Armor Holdings is the world's largest producers of body armor, holsters, batons and chemical agents. The focus of the seminar was the application of their products for the law enforcement professional.

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Last Update May 22, 2007