Digital Forensics Dispatch
Digital Forensics Blog
by Sensei Enterprises, Inc.
Electronic Evidence Assist in Catching California Wildlife Poachers
December 13, 2022
Travis Schlepp of Oklahoma News 4 and Nexstar Media Wire recently reported that six people are in custody after California’s Fish and Wildlife wardens busted a poaching ring. The six people are part of a group called the “E-Bike Crew”, Schlepp states.
They are believed to be responsible for dozens of illegal wildlife kills, and the Ventura County District Attorney has brought 21 total charges against the men. It is believed that the men worked with a local grocery store, Lizette’s Market, to generate falsified hunting tags.
Schlepp writes “[while] printing legal tags for the group, Reyes Guerrero reported regularly re-printed tickets, blaming it on poor print quality.” The investigators believe that the re-printed tags were being provided to circumnavigate the number of tags allowed by state law.
The interesting part is that the ticketing system tracks when hunting tags are reprinted through California’s Automated License Data System. For the period that the alleged criminal activity took place, the grocery store, Lizette’s Market, had the most reprinted tickets in the state.
Evidence obtained by the game wardens showed the crew hunting in the Sespe Condor Sanctuary, which is a protected wildlife area as the California Condor is an endangered animal. Evidentially, the crew didn’t avoid detection from the cameras that are in the sanctuary.
In December of 2021, search warrants were served at the homes of the members of the “E-Bike Crew” where dozens of hunting trophies, antlers and animal skulls were found. Investigators believe that they were obtained illegally through poaching.
Investigators also found the skull of a mountain lion in one of the homes of the men. Hunting mountain lions in the state of California is prohibited.
In the search of Lizette’s Market, investigators obtained both physical and electronic evidence of the tag reprinting scheme that was being performed.
In addition to evidence obtained from the market and the homes of the six men, investigators were also able to obtain messages from WhatsApp. The “conversations also shed light on the process and revealed many of those involved in the scheme discussed the illegal activity openly with one another” writes Schlepp.
One man is still wanted in connection with the crimes and has an active arrest warrant out. The remaining men are in custody and have bail set at $200,000.
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