NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife
Bureau of Law Enforcement
COs Hutchinson and Kuechler investigated a complaint of a Clifton
resident in possession of exotic species without a permit. After
a brief discussion, the individual admitted to possessing two
alligators. The animals were seized and placed with an out of
state cooperator and the appropriate summonses were issued.
COs from the Northern and Central Regions conducted Bear Enforcement
Sweeps at Kittatiny, Pleasant Valley and Paulins Kill Lake Communities.
CO Hutchinson attended a meeting during “Sparta Mountain
Day” to discuss the ATV issues at Sparta Mountain WMA
and the surrounding area. The officers’ presence and willingness
to address the concerns of the group was very well received.
While patrolling Branch Brook Park, COs Sutton and Kuechler
inspected an individual fishing without a license and who claimed
to not have any identification. The officers were able to determine
his identity and discovered he had three outstanding warrants
for his arrest. The individual was arrested and transported
to Essex County Jail where he was also charged with fishing
without a license.
CO Hutchinson investigated the shooting of a black bear with
a target arrow at a residence in West Milford. After inspecting
the backyard, the officer determined that the statement provided
by the family that the bear was attempting to kill a rooster
was false and that they fabricated the scene. Eventually, the
father admitted to being frustrated with the bear being in their
trash several times during the week so he shot it. He was charged
with injuring and attempting to kill a black bear.
CO Paul investigated the vandalism of a Division owned dump
truck at the Musconetcong River WMA. The truck was parked in
a newly constructed parking lot when the air brake lines were
cut during the evening hours. The plan to develop new parking
areas for sportsmen access has been the topic of complaint from
a few residents in the neighborhood. The investigation continues.
COs continued to be extremely busy investigating bear feeding
and bear shooting complaints as well as assisting the Wildlife
Control Unit with bear related activities.
CO Kuechler volunteered as an event assistant for the New Jersey
Law Enforcement Torch Run for the Special Olympics.
Capt. Fletcher and Lt. Applegate responded to a call from the
NJ State Police involving an individual who shot a bear on a
farm in Hope late one evening. The individual admitted to being
intoxicated when he shot the bear with a .30-06 rifle. The individual
said the bear had been knocking over his garbage cans so he
shot it. He was in the process of skinning the bear when his
mother informed him she was calling the police. The individual,
in an attempt to dispose of the evidence, had just finished
dumping the bear in a drainage pond with his bucket-loader when
the State Police arrived. Upon their arrival, Capt. Fletcher
and Lt. Applegate had the individual retrieve the partially
skinned bear from the pond with his machine. The rifle was seized
and he received summonses for all the appropriate charges.
Officers from District 3 and 4 conducted a joint patrol of the
Forked River WMA on the Saturday of the Memorial Day weekend.
CO’s Mutone and McManus and Lt. Lacroix volunteered to check
the heavily used northern area along the Garden State Parkway.
A total of eight vehicles and two ATV’s were stopped and
inspected for a myriad of WMA and motor vehicle violations. A
total of 22 summonses were issued for violations including: careless
driving, unregistered motor vehicle, fail to inspect, alter after
inspection, fail to provide documents, no seatbelts, no helmets
on ATV, operate off the established road, interference, and riding
on parts unintended for passengers. One of the vehicles stopped
was a pickup that had 8 people, including 6 children, riding in
the bed of the pickup as it bounced down the rutted sand road.
One of the individuals stopped had been written numerous WMA summonses
in the past. The officers also stopped 3 ATV’s and a dirt
bike on Jones’s Rd. in Greenwood Forest WMA. Five more summonses
and 2 warnings were issued to this group.
Lt. Lacroix was patrolling the Assunpink WMA one Saturday night
when she observed a vehicle parked at the main boat ramp at Assunpink
Lake. It was 11:30pm and the vehicle was parked in an area not
usually used by fishermen. After unsuccessfully trying to contact
the owner by phone, she contacted the Monroe Twp. PD to stop by
the owner’s residence. The father then contacted Lt. Lacroix
and stated that his son had gone hiking at the Assunpink around
6pm and they had not heard from him since. The father met Lt.
Lacroix at the Assunpink and they searched the area. By 1:30am,
with no contact, Lt. Lacroix contacted State Police and asked
for a canine team to respond. Just as the State Police arrived,
the man came walking out of the woods. He stated that his GPS
had stopped working and he had gotten lost. Two weeks later, Lt.
Lacroix was checking fishermen at the Assunpink boat ramp around
11pm, when she observed the same individual drive into the parking
lot and put a bag in the garbage can. She went over to the man
and asked him what he was up to. He stated that he had been fishing
and was heading home. She picked up the bag that he had put into
the can and found 5 empty beer bottles. Another unopened bottle
was sitting in the cup holder of his vehicle. She observed that
the individual was unable to walk steadily and informed him that
he wasn’t going to be driving anymore that night. The man
was issued a summons for consumption of alcohol on a WMA, and
for the second time in two weeks, the man’s father had to
be called to come get his 40 year-old son.
CO Martiak was patrolling the Sayreville Waterworks pond when
he observed two men fishing. As he was approaching, the men spotted
him and tried to leave in their vehicle. CO Martiak was able to
stop the men before they could leave and found them to be in possession
of 4 largemouth bass during the closed season.
CO Martiak was patrolling the Duhernal Lake area in Old Bridge
when he observed two men and a female fishing. He also observed
the two men exchanging an object and smoking it. One of the men
ran off as CO Martiak approached. As he ran, he slipped and fell
in the mud. CO Martiak located a pipe and a bag containing a white
powder in the left front shirt pocket of the remaining man and
8 small bags labeled Bentley in the right front shirt pocket.
The man stated the white powder was cocaine and that the envelopes
contained heroin. Old Bridge and Spotswood PD’s responded
to assist CO Martiak. CO Martiak went to the location where the
other man had fallen and found a pack of cigarettes, a lighter
and a small bag of white powder. The man and woman were questioned
as to the identity of the other man and they said the man’s
name was “Jimmy”. The man was arrested and taken to
Old Bridge PD. CO Martiak charged him with possession of cocaine
and heroin, possession of drug paraphernalia, and failing to have
a fishing license. Bail was set at $25,000. An Old Bridge Detective
was able to track “Jimmy” down using cell phone records
and determined that Milltown PD had just arrested the same individual
recently and he had listed “Jimmy” as one of his aliases.
CO Martiak received an arrest warrant for “Jimmy”.
CO Martiak and officers from Old Bridge, Spotswood and the Middlesex
County Prosecutor’s Office attempted to serve the warrant,
but could not locate the suspect at home. After speaking with
the individual’s mother, she informed the officers that
she would bring him in that evening. That evening, “Jimmy”
turned himself in. He was charged with eluding and possession
of CDS. The Prosecutor’s office also filed other charges.
Bail was set at $30,000.
CO Mutone and Lt. Lacroix were to meet at the Colliers Mills WMA
to conduct a night patrol when Lt. Lacroix heard CO Mutone calling
Trenton Dispatch via the radio. Lt. Lacroix responded to the dog
training area where CO Mutone had three vehicles stopped. According
to CO Mutone, she observed several vehicles approaching her on
the road to the dog training area at a high rate of speed. She
activated her red lights and the vehicles stopped. She observed
what she thought was a male individual standing up through a sunroof
in the first vehicle, but she wondered why he wasn’t getting
back into the vehicle. She approached the vehicle on foot and
realized why he wasn’t getting into the car… he was
strapped to the top of the vehicle and he was completely naked.
The 6 men, all high school seniors, had been out partying the
whole day in preparation for graduation. The drivers were issued
summonses for after hours and the naked man and the driver of
that vehicle were issued summonses for riding and allowing to
ride, on parts unintended.
Officer Mutone encountered a large group of individuals that were
illegally operating Monster trucks on the Greenwood Forest Wildlife
Management Area. When the group saw the officer approach they
instinctively tossed their beer cans and other trash into the
woods in an attempt to conceal the fact that they had been consuming
alcohol. Officer O’Rourke arrived to assist and the two
officers issued summonses for littering; illegal possession of
alcohol; unregistered motor vehicles on a WMA and a number of
other motor vehicle violations. Two trucks had to be towed from
the property when their owners failed to produce the necessary
documents. One vehicle was impounded because the plate information
didn’t match the vehicle type nor vehicle identification
Lt. Sich apprehended two ATV riders who were on the Greenwood
Forest Wildlife Management Area in Lacey Township. The two subjects,
who lived nearby, told the officer that they weren’t aware
that it was illegal to ride on the property. The area was properly
posted. Lt. Sich took the time to explain the law as it applied
to the use of ATV’s and then issued a summons for the violation.
Lt. Sich then left the area. About an hour later Lt. Sich returned
as a passenger in Officer Mutone’s patrol vehicle and once
again spotted the same two individuals from earlier that day operating
their ATV’s on the wildlife management area. For some reason,
the one subject didn’t initially recognize Lt. Sich and
gave the same excuse as before. He was a little embarrassed when
he finally realized that he was talking to the same officer that
he had encountered earlier. Additional summonses were issued.
Lt. Sich assisted the NJ State Forest Fire Service and NJ State
Police investigate a series of suspicious forest fires on the
Colliers Mills Wildlife Management Area. Lt. Sich was initially
called to the scene to interview two suspects who were detained
by Forest Fire Wardens. Once on scene, State Police and Lt. Sich
interviewed the suspects and gathered evidence. Based on the evidence
recovered at the scene, the two suspects were released and the
NJ State Police Arson Squad is now investigating other leads.
Officer Szulecki was recently assigned to investigate a non-game
endangered species complaint at Seven Presidents Park in Long
Branch. The officer’s initial investigation revealed that
two individuals had entered a restricted area of the beach that
protected a colony of nesting shore birds. One of the subjects
allegedly picked up Least Tern eggs and tossed them to the ground.
Based on witness information the Long Branch Police and Monmouth
County Park Officers were able to apprehend the suspects. With
the information provided by the County Park Officers, Special
Agent Huynh and Officer Szulecki were able to interview the subject
at his residence and obtain an admission as to his involvement.
The appropriate charges were filed.
After receiving information from a reliable informant, Officer
Mutone was able to apprehend a subject that was fishing on the
Toms River near Huddy Park who was in possession of an undersized
striped bass. The informant observed the subject catch a short
striped bass, wrap it in a plastic bag and place it in the bottom
of a yellow bucket. When Officer Mutone arrived and confronted
the subject, he told her that he had only caught yellow perch
that day and showed her a bucket that contained yellow perch.
When asked if he had any other fish, the subject said “No!”
When the officer noticed the yellow bucket as described by the
informant she asked to see what was inside, the subject hesitated
at first but then complied with her request. The short striped
bass was found and the subject was issued the appropriate summons.
CO Vazquez presented a school program for the career day at the
New Jersey Avenue School in Atlantic City. Approximately 100 students
CO Vazquez while on routine patrol with CO Toppin encountered
an individual fishing in Linden Lake, Lindenwold, Camden County.
After routine interviewing the officers ran the man for wants
and warrants. Trenton Dispatch excitedly notified the officers
that the man in question had a warrant for his arrest. The warrant
was for failure to pay child support and had a full bail amount,
no ten percent, of $28,000. The fisherman was cited for fishing
without a license and transported to jail.
CO Batten and CO Vazquez utilized the recently acquired turkey
decoy in Bevans WMA to apprehend road hunters. The officers observed
an individual drive past the deployed decoy and stop. They observed
the man exit his vehicle with a loaded weapon and begin to stalk
the decoy. Just prior to the man firing at the decoy CO Vazquez
yelled for him to stop. The individual’s response was to
turn and begin running back toward his truck. Both officers gave
chase and the man was apprehended. Appropriate summons were issued.
CO Batten received information from a concerned citizen that observed
a hunter shoot two turkeys at one time while trespassing. With
the assistance of CO Risher, CO Batten investigated the complaint
and was able to identify the illegal hunter. A detailed interview
resulted in the officers obtaining a full confession. Summonses
for over the limit and trespassing were issued.
CO Batten while on routine patrol observed an individual fishing
in a WMA at Turkey Point, Downe Twp., Cumberland County. While
watching the fishermen CO Batten observed the man return to his
vehicle several times and place items inside the vehicle. Upon
inspection, the fisherman denied placing anything in his truck.
When pressed he finally admitted to possessing short crabs. Twenty-three
short crabs were found in his possession. Appropriate charges
District 6 COs have been very busy with the recent heat wave at
various Wildlife Management Areas. Many people from the surrounding
towns flocked to the WMA with the purpose of swimming. These large
crowds also resulted in a dramatic increase in alcohol consumption
and litter violations.
While on routine patrol with CO Toppin in Cape May County, CO
Ely located a vehicle parked down from Beaver Swamp WMA with evidence
of dirt bike riding. A short time later CO Ely and CO Toppin located
two dirt bikes exiting the WMA and attempted a motor vehicle stop.
While one biker stopped the other individual gunned his bike at
CO Ely and eluded the officers. CO Ely slightly injured his hand
attempting to stop the biker as he rode past. The biker that had
stopped provided CO Ely with the other rider’s identification
and stated that the vehicle found earlier was in fact their vehicle.
The rider that ran was the owner of the vehicle and both individuals
were staying in a local campground. The officers were able to
seize the truck’s keys and proceeded to search for the biker
that ran while the other biker remained at the truck. While CO
Ely and CO Toppin were searching for this individual Lt Massey
arrived at the vehicle and located two individuals at the truck.
The individual that ran had replaced his motorcycle with a bicycle
and had returned to the truck. CO Ely and CO Toppin returned and
placed the 18 year old into custody and charged him with numerous
criminal and Fish and Wildlife charges.
While on routine patrol CO Risher with DCO Chiusolo located two
fishermen at Union lake dam. This individual was found fishing
without a valid license. Further investigation located 17 short
striped bass. The fishermen disputed the officer’s identification
of the fish and insisted that the fish were striped perch as striped
bass could not be caught in the river. Nonetheless the men were
cited for not having a fishing license, the short fish and at
least 13 fish over the limit.
CO Risher received a request from a student at the Cumberland
Co Regional High School to have a Conservation Officer speak at
the school. It seems that this student’s dream job is to
be a Conservation Officer. CO Risher was pleased to comply and
spoke to several classes at the school and received a warm reception.
CO Toppin along with Lt. Honachefsky gave a presentation to approximately
100 high school students for their Career Day at Williamstown
High School in Gloucester County. CO Toppin presented the students
with a power point presentation on a career as a Conservation
While on shorebird patrol in Cape May County CO Toppin observed
minnow netting at Pierces Point. When the individual left and
returned approximately fifteen minutes later CO Toppin decided
to question him. The man claimed he was only doing it for fun
but when Officer Toppin requested that he open his cooler he found
four largemouth bass for which the season is closed. Summonses
for fishing without a license and fishing closed season were issued.
Dist 5 COs have remained busy with the warm weather. Fishing and
public use of the Wildlife Management Areas is high. The officers
combined their patrols of the district and issued twenty-five
summons for fishing violations, ATV activity and swimming.
CO Stites encountered a deer hunter in January 2008. Shortly thereafter,
CO Stites discovered that the hunter’s privileges were suspended
and that the individual also had a felony conviction. CO Stites
later found that the individual had killed and registered at least
2 deer during the 2008 seasons. During the Spring turkey season
CO Stites spent some time attempting to locate the hunter, and
eventually saw the individual dressed in hunting attire driving
a truck in Alloway Township, Salem County. A short time later
Stites located the same truck parked in a nearby field. The hunter
was inspected in the field and found to be actively hunting. He
will be charged with violations for hunting while on the revoked
list in January and again this Spring. Additional charges will
include the unlawful registration of the 2 deer.
Dist 5 COs made several arrests for outstanding bench warrants.
CO Toppin and Stites were on shorebird/ horseshoe crab patrol
when they responded to a complaint of a break-in at Ponder Lodge
at the Villas WMA in Cape May County. The officers found no break-in
but did encounter 2 fishermen without licenses and one of these
persons had a warrant for his arrest, the subject was transported
to the Cape May County Jail. CO Stites was on patrol along the
Salem Canal in Carney’s Point, in Salem County when he located
3 individuals fishing without licenses, who had taken largemouth
bass during the closed season. One individual was found to have
an active warrant with a required $2,500 bail out of East Brunswick,
Middlesex County. CO Stites arrested the individual with the assistance
of COs Kille and Toppin.
May 21st CO Petruccelli and Lt. Yunghans apprehended the commercial
fishing vessel Capt. Alec as it docked at Cold Spring Fish and
Supply Co. in Cape May. Conservation Officers boarded the vessel
and discovered it had landed six hundred and seventy pounds of
shucked sea scallops. Under the permit that they were issued their
daily trip limit is only 400 lbs; therefore they landed two hundred
and seventy lbs. over their limit. In addition their federal logbook
was falsified in an attempt to hide the overage. CO Petruccelli
completed the case package and filed the appropriate federal violations
with the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Howard T Birchmeier was prosecuted for his activities involving
the illegal sale of black sea bass to entities which do not possess
a New Jersey permit to purchase black sea bass directly from a
harvester. His charges stem from a District 8 investigation in
March of 2008 which spanned three counties involved five jurisdictions,
six defendants and included federal charges issued to the party
vessel involved. Mr. Birchmeier was the main element in the case
and had created a network of personal relationships to further
On May 20th in Washington Twp., Gloucester County a plea agreement
was reached with Mr. Birchmeier, He plead guilty to one charge
of illegal sale of black sea bass and received a penalty of $1000.00;
part of the plea bargain included $500.00 suspended for a period
of thirty six months without any further violations of New Jersey’s
commercial fishing regulations.
On June 9th in Cherry Hill, Camden County a similar plea agreement
was reached. Mr. Birchmeier again plead guilty and received a
$3,000.00 penalty for the illegal sale of black sea bass; $2,000.00
was suspended for thirty six months without any further violations
of New Jersey’s commercial fishing regulations. In total
he was sentenced to $4,000.00 penalty, ordered to pay $1, 5 00.00
immediately and had $2,500.00 suspended for a thirty-six months
of “probationary” period to stay violation free. If
caught in any future violations within that period would require
payment of the suspended amount as well as any other penalties
On 6/1/08 the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) reopened
a limited access area known as the Elephant Trunk off of the coast
of southern New Jersey normally closed to Sea Scallop fishing.
The area had been open earlier in the year and had been the source
of several violations by General Category scallop vessels aka.
“day” boats. District 8 COs knew that the timing of
this opening was going to create a large number of problems mostly
due to a control date set for 7/1/08 to limit participation in
the “day” scallop fishery. A large number of vessels
were due to lose their license for the fishery on that date based
on their entry into the fishery. i.e. they had nothing else to
lose. During this time District 8 CO’s assisted by District
7 CO’s made numerous inspections of vessels landing from
this limited access area. Below are several cases made during
this opening involving overages:
1. On June 2nd at 0600hrs CO’s Snellbaker, Petruccelli and
Lt. Canale boarded the FV Ocean One as it entered it’s dock
in Gardner’s Basin in Atlantic City. Conservation Officer’s
documented and seized a 50 lb. overage which was subsequently
donated to the Atlantic City Rescue Mission. CO Snellbaker issued
the vessel’s owner/operator violations for the overage as
well as for failure to accurately complete their Fishing Vessel
Trip Report. The case has been referred to NMFS for prosecution.
2. On June 7th at 1930 hrs. CO Petruccelli and Lt. Canale were
conducting boardings of vessels at Cold Spring Fish and Supply
in Cape May. They encountered the F/V Apache which had landed
earlier in the day. As a mate on the vessel was leaving officers
inquired about speaking to the Captain. The mate told the officers
that he would have the captain return to the vessel. Instead,
after several minutes an unidentified individual informed the
officers that it appeared the captain and the crew were avoiding
returning to the vessel and would most likely flee. CO Petruccelli
tracked the Captain down in the parking lot of dock. The Captain
of the vessel was intoxicated and provided verbal resistance which
bordered on the escalation to physical resistance. Although the
vessel offloaded their 400 lb. limit earlier in the day CO Petruccelli
discovered a sixty pound overage in the galley of the vessel.
CO Petruccelli and Lt. Canale seized and secured the overage.
CO Petruccelli completed the investigation in the following days
contacting the owner and subsequently seizing the entire trip
from the vessel. The appropriate federal charges were filed for
landing over the daily trip limit. The case has been referred
to NMFS for prosecution.
3. On June 8th at 1730 hrs. CO’s Petruccelli and Trembley
boarded the F/V EMERALD STAR at Cold Spring Fish and Supply in
Cape May. The vessel had landed 563lbs of shucked sea scallops,
one hundred and sixty three pounds over the daily trip limit.
In addition the Captain of the vessel failed to complete the Fishing
Vessel Trip Report as required. Officers seized the entire catch
from the vessel. CO Trembley completed the case package and file
the charges which will be forwarded to NMFS for prosecution.
4. On June 11th CO’s Snellbaker and Soell boarded the F/V
Sonja H at a dock on Mill Creek in Cape May. The officers discovered
a 39.5 lb. scallop overage and an incomplete federal log book.
The log book was missing information from several days’
worth of trips and Fishing Vessel Trip Reports which were incomplete
including a blank page for the day’s inspection. The officer’s
seized the scallop overage and documented federal charges for
landing over the daily trip limit and failing to complete their
trip report. In addition, copies of the incomplete trip reports
for previous days were retained as evidence for future investigation.
CO Snellbaker completed the case report which will be forwarded
to NMFS for prosecution.
5. On June 19th CO James was referred to the dock at Cold Spring
Fish and Supply in Cape May by NMFS Agent Mayeski to “educate”
the operator and crew on the FV King.Com in reference to minor
infraction documented by the Vessel Monitoring System. Upon boarding
the vessel for an “educational” contact, CO James
discovered a sea scallop overage. The vessel was over their daily
trip limit of 400lbs. CO James was directed to document the violation
and process the case. Appropriate federal charges are pending.
Now that the summer flounder season is under way, District 7 CO’s
have been busy enforcing the fluke recreational size and bag limits.
The ratio for anglers seems to be approximately 1 keeper to 10
throwbacks. However, a group of four individuals who came to the
Atlantic Highlands Municipal Ramp wasn’t too eager to throw
back all of the short fluke. Lt. Fresco and CO Jones inspected
these fishermen at the ramp and discovered forty-seven fluke in
their boat. Only six measured at least 18 inches. Each fisherman
in the group was issued summonses for possession of the undersized
fluke and three fluke over the daily bag limit.
CO Soell inspected the commercial F/V Wabo at Viking Village Dock
in Barnegat Light. Under the federal fishing permits, the vessel
was allowed 50 pounds of monkfish; however, the vessel offloaded
71 pounds. Under the advice of a NMFS special agent, a federal
warning was issued for the overage. A warning issued in this case
acts as a first offense in the eyes of the federal government,
with subsequent violations demanding higher fines.
Lt. Fresco while inspecting the commercial docks at Viking Village
apprehended two vessels violating federal fisheries laws. The
F/V Eliza returned from a two days at sea monkfish trip. The vessel
offloaded the two day limit of 2988 pounds of monkfish. After
the vessel completed offloading its catch, Lt. Fresco boarded
the vessel and discovered additional monkfish covered by tarps.
These fish were hidden prior to the vessel coming to the dock.
The overage totaled 404 pounds. A federal case has been initiated
and sent to the General Counsel. The second case involved the
F/V Pretty Lady which offloaded its catch of 395 pounds of shucked
scallops. Under its federal fisheries permit they can land up
to 400 pounds. The captain claimed that was all of their catch.
Lt. Fresco boarded the vessel and discovered a 38 pound bag of
scallops in a fish box. This brought the total catch to 433 pounds,
a 33 pound overage. This vessel had been warned for the same violation
in the past. A summary settlement for this violation will be issued.