Deer smugglers sentenced to prison

AUSTIN, TX The deer were transported from Minnesota to Texas for trophy hunts.

A federal district judge in Plano on Monday sentenced Robert Eichenour, owner of Circle E Ranch in Bedias in Grimes County, to 18 months in prison. He must also serve 36 months probation after his release and pay a $50,000 fine.

Brian Becker of Madelia, Minn., was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison and 36 months probation after his release.

Both men were convicted of felony violations of the federal Lacey Act, which prohibits the transportation of illegally captured or prohibited animals across state lines.

During the probation period, neither man will be allowed to sell deer.

The department said in a news release that Eichenour and Becker were caught smuggling 14 white-tailed buck deer from Minnesota to Eichenour's ranch. Investigators say the plan was for Eichenour to bring in hunters and sell hunts for the trophy Minnesota bucks. The investigation found that over a four-year period, the two smuggled in about $300,000 worth of white-tailed bucks.

The men were caught in an October 2006 smuggling sting operation Texas Parks and Wildlife conducted along with U.S. Fish and Wildlife agents.

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