June 2008
NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife
Monthly Highlights
Bureau of Law Enforcement

Northern Region

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.

Central Region

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 number.

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.

Southern Region

CO Vazquez presented a school program for the career day at the New Jersey Avenue School in Atlantic City. Approximately 100 students attended.

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 were issued.

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 Officer.

While on shorebird patrol in Cape May County CO Toppin observed an individual
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.

Marine Region

On 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 his dealings.

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 ordered.

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.

Training Unit Highlights

The Spring Precision Rifle Qualifications concluded during this time for both the Bureau’s Law Enforcement Scoped Rifle Shooters as well as the Wildlife Control Representatives.

The Training Unit conducted a much-needed two-day range maintenance session. During the two-day session 14 officers from the Bureau of Law Enforcement and Willingboro Police Department assisted with the construction of new barricades, repairing range lights and general facilities maintenance







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Last Update July 20, 2008