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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Guilty Plea in Illegal NJ Black Bear Killing


A Passaic County man pleaded guilty today to illegally killing a black bear in New Jersey, transporting it across state lines to New York and veiling the crime by making false statements and staging a fake kill site.

Martin Kaszycki, 36, of Ringwood, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Leda D. Wettre in Newark federal court to two counts of violating the federal Lacey Act for unlawful transport of wildlife that has been illegally taken, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced today.

New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife Conservation Officers received the original complaint for the crime and conducted an intensive field investigation, evidence gathering and interviews before working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to bring the Lacey Act violations to court.

“We would like to extend thanks to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for providing both legal and staffing support necessary to successfully prosecute this case as a Lacey Act violation,” said Mark Chicketano, Chief, New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife Bureau of Law Enforcement. “In complex cases such as this, where the violator has gone through extensive effort to conceal their violations, the added enforcement penalties provided by the Lacey Act serve as a valuable deterrent against those who would make such attempts to hide their crimes.”

According to documents filed in the case and statements made in court, Kaszycki killed a 450-pound, male black bear from an elevated tree stand in a wooded area in Newfoundland in Passaic County on Oct. 5, 2012, which is outside of the legal bear hunting season in New Jersey. Kaszycki set out bait for the bear within 300 feet of the stand and a used a bow and arrow for the kill, all in violation of New Jersey game code.

Kaszycki drove the bear to New York, where archery hunting was in season. He falsely told a New York weigh station employee that he had killed the bear in New York’s Sterling State Forest, resulting in the employee filing false information on a New York state Bear Data Form.

On Oct. 8, 2012, Kaszycki drove the hide and skull of the bear to a taxidermy shop in Pennsylvania for mounting of a trophy display.

After receiving a tip, New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife Conservation Officers confronted Kaszycki about the bear on Oct. 10, 2012 at his place of business. Kaszycki informed the officers he had killed the bear in New York. Later that night, Kaszycki brought the entrails of the bear to Sterling State Forest and placed them in the woods to stage a fake kill site.

Kaszycki was interviewed again the next day by New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife Conservation Officers and he led them to the staged kill site, prompting further investigation. The officers also located the suspected kill site in New Jersey and confirmed it was the location through the testing of recovered DNA evidence by East Stroudsburg University.

“New Jersey has in place a Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy that manages the state’s bear population through a carefully monitored hunting season complemented by education and research efforts,” said New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife Director David Chanda. “We will not tolerate activities that are not consistent with bear hunting regulations that are established within the framework of this management policy.”

The Lacey Act prohibits the interstate transport of wildlife taken or possessed in violation of any state law or regulation as well as the making of a false record for wildlife that has been or is intended to be transported in interstate commerce.

As part of his plea agreement, Kaszycki must pay a fine of $5,000 to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Lacey Act Reward Fund. He must also forfeit the skull and hide of the bear and pay $1,250 to the Woodlands Wildlife Refuge in Pittstown for the care and release of orphaned and injured black bears in New Jersey.

Kaszycki was released on a $10,000 unsecured bond with the condition that he not engage in hunting, pending sentencing, or renew any hunting license, permit or certificate. As a condition of bail, he was also ordered to surrender his current hunting license.

The charge to which Kaszycki pleaded guilty carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a fine of $100,000. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 17, 2016.

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