Michigan resident linked to controversy- "Wright's home address was also used in 2001 by John D. Coffin of Michigan, who is not a wildlife officer, to purchase a resident Ohio hunting license. Vaughn did purchase a non-resident Ohio hunting license in 2007, using his South Carolina address." http://www.cleveland.com/outdoors/in...r_top_col.html
Ohio wildlife officers face multiple charges
By MISTY MAYNARD, Staff Writer | Posted: Monday, April 5, 2010 8:15 pm
GEORGETOWN, Ohio -- Six employees of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources were indicted Friday by a Brown County grand jury on charges ranging from tampering with records and falsification to obstructing justice.
Prompting the charges is an incident that allegedly occurred between Nov. 5 and Dec. 30, 2006. It was between these dates that Allan Wright, wildlife officer for Brown County, allegedly falsified records kept by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources by allowing a South Carolina officer to use Wright's home address in Brown County when purchasing a hunting license, said Mike Shelton, chief of legislative services for ODNR.
By using Wright's address, the South Carolina officer, identified as Eric Vaughn, purchased an in-state hunting license rather than an out-of-state license. A in-state license costs $19, while an out-of-state license is $125, Shelton said.
Shelton said an internal investigation was completed by ODNR administrators following the 2006 incident and a verbal reprimand was issued to Wright. However, by failing to refer the case for prosecution, five administrators "ignored the criminal violation of falsification," according to a report of investigation issued by the State of Ohio's Office of the Inspector General. According to the report, the basis for the investigation was a confidential informant who filed a complaint with the OIG on Sept. 30, 2009, two years after the verbal reprimand was issued.
Wright has been charged with two counts of tampering with records and one count of falsification.
Division of Wildlife Chief David Graham, Law Enforcement Administrator James Lehman, Human Resources Administrator Michele Ward, District 5 Manager Todd Haines and Assistant Chief of ODNR Division of Wildlife Randy Miller were each indicted on one count of obstructing justice and one count of complicity to obstruct justice each.
According to the report of investigation, administrators "said that they never recognized or considered Wright's actions could be criminal and decided to handle the matter as a policy investigation."
"During Wildlife's investigation, Officer Wright claimed that this is a common practice and supervisors approved or had knowledge of Wildlife officers providing resident hunting licenses to nonresidents," according to the report. "No one from Wildlife ever verified Wright's claims that the practice was widespread. In fact, we found that this claim is not true."
Administrators classified Wright's violation as a "failure of good behavior for disobeying an unspecified division directive and issued him a verbal reprimand," according to the report.
"We found there was not agency directive prohibiting the issuance of a resident license to a nonresident until October 2008, well after this violation occurred," according to the report. "The more appropriate classification of dishonesty by willfully falsifying an official document was not considered. Wildlife administrators also violated the governor's and ODNR policy by failing to report suspected illegal activity to the ODNR director or his designee."
As of Monday, Shelton said all of the six indicted remained at work and have not been placed on any kind of leave.
Shelton said he is not aware of any charges filed against the South Carolina officer. According to the report, it was Wright's idea to put his home address on Vaughn's license application to allow him to receive a resident hunting license.
The OIG made two recommendations in the report, which ODNR has six days to respond to with a plan.
The first recommendation is that ODNR update its suspected illegal activity policy to mirror the Governor's Procedures for Notification of Employee Wrongdoing and/or Suspected Illegal Activity.
The second recommendation is that ODNR should internally review actions of all employees involved to determine whether their conduct warrants further administrator action or training.
Shelton said no action has yet been taken on the recommendations.
Tampering with records is a third-degree felony, while falsification is a first-degree misdemeanor.
Obstructing justice and complicity to obstruct justice are both fifth-degree felonies.
Six Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife employees who were indicted last week have been placed on paid leave pending resolution of the accusations levied against them in Brown County, according to an ODNR spokesperson.
“We are going to place all six employees on administrative leave, effective this evening through the end of the court proceedings,” Mike Shelton, Chief of ODNR’s Office of External Affairs, said Wednesday afternoon.
The agency is currently looking at temporary employee reassignments to ensure that the services and responsibilities normally handled by the indicted individuals are still taken care of, Shelton said.
A Grand Jury indicted Brown County Wildlife Officer Allan Wright last week for two counts of tampering with records and one count of falsification. Wright is accused of allowing South Carolina resident Eric Vaughn to use Wright’s home address on an application for a hunting permit in November of 2006, effectively reducing the cost of the permit by $106. Wright is additionally accused of personally checking in three deer killed by Vaughn and intentionally providing his own home address, rather than Vaughn’s, on the tags.
In addition to Wright, five other ODNR Division of Wildlife employees - all in supervisory positions - have each been charged with two fifth-degree felony counts because they allegedly failed to initiate a criminal investigation once allegations against Wright became known to the Division. Division of Wildlife Chief David Graham, Assistant Chief Randy Miller, Law Enforcement Administrator James Lehman, District 5 Manager Todd Haines and Human Resources Administrator Michele Ward-Tackett have each been indicted on charges of obstruction of justice and complicity to obstructing justice.
All six defendants were summoned to appear for arraignment Monday in Brown County Court of Common Pleas, and each defendant was released on a $10,000 own-recognizance bond after the hearing.
The defendants are expected to appear in Common Pleas Court on April 21.
South Carolina Officer Vaughn killed 2 does and a button buck in Ohio. So, he signed his license and three deer permits claiming to be a resident of OHIO. Doesn't matter if Wright input the information, Vaugh signed it under penalty of law. And Vaughn acknowledged that he noticed that his license showed Wright's address before he signed it.
Wright came to SC for two years and was found to have violated numerous trapping laws. However, SC DNR only gave him a warning. Vaughn was also found to have violated a trapping law in SC at the same time but he was not ticketed, warned, or disciplined.
While Wright was in SC here, Vaughn admits to being with Wright while he was trapping, and Vaughn was present when Wright left with illegal pelts. Yet he claims to have seen no infractions. Wright made thousands of dollars while here and got to keep all of it. Didn't even pay a fine.
SC DNR Officer Eric Vaughn willfully falsified an official document by signing his license. Officer Vaughn is not now, nor has he ever been, a resident of Ohio.
A records check of hunting licenses issued to Eric Vaughn in Ohio revealed that in 2006, Vaughn was issued an Ohio resident hunting license, which listed his home address as the home address of Allan Wright. The fee for a resident hunting license is $19, while the nonresident license is $125.00
The Ohio Division of Wildlife receives no taxpayer or General Revenue Funds (“GRF”), but is funded through revenue from license and permit fees. So because of Vaughn's actions your fund was fraudulently compromised.
A “resident” is a person who has resided in the state of Ohio “not less than six months next preceding the date of making application for a license.”2 All others are considered “nonresidents” and must purchase nonresident licenses.
The ODNR Wildlife hunting license application form clearly states that “providing fraudulent information is a violation of 2921.13 of the Ohio Revised Code.” A violation of this section is classified as a misdemeanor of the first degree.
"Ohio Revised Code section 2921.13A (5) Falsification; states “no person shall knowingly make a false statement, or knowingly swear or affirm the truth of a false statement previously made, when any of the following apply:… the statement is made with purpose to secure the issuance by a governmental agency of a license, permit, authorization, certificate, registration, release, or provider agreement.”
Wright admitted he was friends with SCDNR Officer Eric Vaughn, and that he had assisted Vaughn with obtaining an Ohio resident hunting license in
2006 during a hunting trip in Ohio.
On July 30, 2008, USFWS reported to the Ohio Wildlife Law Enforcement Executive Administrator that they found no evidence of misconduct by the USFWS officer. The USFWS report included Wright’s admission of assisting Vaughn in obtaining the Ohio resident license.
Wright admitted that he assisted Vaughn in obtaining a fraudulent resident hunting license by advising Vaughn to use his (Wright’s) home address as his own.
Wright also admitted checking in the three deer killed by Vaughn. Wright knowingly recorded a false address for Vaughn on the harvest report when he listed his address as Vaughn’s.
An ODNR Customer Purchase History query of Wright’s home address revealed Vaughn used Wright’s address in 2006, but listed his own South Carolina address on a 2007 hunting license.
As part of this OIG investigation, a Customer Purchase History query of ODNR records was done to search for any other Wildlife officer’s home address being used by others. All resident hunting licenses sold from January 1, 2006 to December 12, 2006 (308,592 records) were
Eric Vaughn had the only record that did not have the same family name of the residence, and that had a previous or subsequent out-of-state address.
We found that Ohio Wildlife Officer Allan Wright admitted his part in obtaining a resident hunting license for his friend, South Carolina Wildlife Officer Eric Vaughn. It was Officer Wright’s idea to put his home address on Vaughn’s hunting license application to facilitate Vaughn receiving a resident hunting license. This act resulted in producing a fraudulent hunting
license and deprived Wildlife of additional revenue.
Providing fraudulent information on a hunting license application is a violation of the Ohio Revised Code, which is clearly stated on the
hunting license application.
Indicted wildlife officials have pre-trial hearing set
The six Ohio Division of Wildlife officials each have up-coming pre-trial hearings set for the Brown County Common Pleas Court before judge Scott Gosweiler.
Each official is charged with felony indictments and also with a misdemeanor charge in the case of one defendant, their arraignments having been April 5.
Allan Wright - the state wildlife officer assigned to Brown County - will appear for his pre-trial hearing at 2 p.m., April 21.
Assistant wildlife division chief Randy Miller, Wildlife Division law enforcement administrator James Lehman, Wildlife District 5 (southwest Ohio) director Todd Haines, and the agency's human resources manager Michele Ward-Tackett all are scheduled to appear at 11 a.m., April 21.
David Graham - the Wildlife Division's chief - has his pre-trial hearing set for 8:30 a.m., April 27.
A pre-trial hearing is designed for the exchange of information between the county prosecutor and the defendants' attorneys. Often a second pre-trial hearing is held as well, a Brown County Common Pleas Court official said Thursday.
Pending the outcome of their legal matters each defendant was placed on paid administrative leave Wednesday by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources director Sean Logan.
GEORGETOWN – Six Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife employees are facing felony charges related to the alleged falsification of an address on a hunting permit.
Brown County Wildlife Officer Allan Wright is accused of allowing South Carolina resident Eric Vaughn to use Wright’s home address on an application for a hunting permit in November of 2006. According to the State of Ohio Office of the Inspector General, records indicate that Vaughn paid $19 for a residential hunting permit, rather than the $125 fee that out-of-state hunters are typically required to pay.
Additionally, the Office of the Inspector General found that Wright personally checked in three deer killed by Vaughn and allegedly recorded his own home address on the tags.
Wright has served as an officer with the Division off Wildlife since May 17, 1993, according to an ODNR spokesperson.
During investigations by multiple agencies into the incident, Wright allegedly admitted to investigators that he suggested substituting his own address to Vaughn and assisted with obtaining the license, although he claimed that it has been common practice in Ohio to allow Wildlife Officers from other states to hunt with residential licenses, according to a report released by the OIG.
Vaughn was a Wildlife Officer in South Carolina and a resident of that state at the time the license was issued.
Last week Wright was indicted for two counts of tampering with records and one count of falsification. The record tampering charge is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison, and the falsification count is a misdemeanor carrying a maximum sentence of six months in the Brown County Detention Center, according to Brown County Prosecutor Jessica Little.
In addition to Wright, five other ODNR Division of Wildlife employees - all in supervisory positions - have each been charged with two fifth-degree felony counts because they allegedly failed to initiate a criminal investigation once allegations against Wright became known to the Division. Division of Wildlife Chief David Graham, Assistant Chief Randy Miller, Law Enforcement Administrator James Lehman, District 5 Manager Todd Haines and Human Resources Administrator Michele Ward-Tackett have each been indicted on charges of obstruction of justice and complicity to obstructing justice. Each defendant could face a maximum of 12 months in prison in addition to fines on each count.
All six defendants were summoned to appear for arraignment Monday in Brown County Court of Common Pleas, and each defendant was released on a $10,000 own-recognizance bond after the hearing.
All six individuals were still on the job as of Monday, according to a spokesperson for the Division of Wildlife. Mike Shelton, Chief of the ODNR Office of External Affairs, said the Department is working in cooperation with the Office of the Inspector General to determine if further training or personnel changes will be necessary, but no decisions have been finalized concerning the employees.
It is Shelton’s understanding that a felony conviction would lead to termination of employment for the defendants.
The OIG launched an investigation into the allegations in September of 2009 after receiving a complaint from a confidential informant. During the course of the inquiry, investigators with the Inspector General’s office discovered that the Division of Wildlife had already conducted an internal investigation of the complaint in 2008.
After the 2008 investigation, the Division of Wildlife administrators concluded that Wright’s actions constituted a “failure of good behavior” violation of the Division’s administrative policy. Wright was issued a verbal reprimand but no criminal charges were filed.
“Wildlife administrators said that they never recognized or considered Wright’s actions could be criminal, and decided to handle the matter as a policy violation,” the OIG’s report states.
The Inspector General’s report indicates Wright’s assertions that allowing out-of-state Wildlife Officers to purchase in-state licenses was considered, but never verified by the administrators who conducted the Department of Wildlife investigation. The lack of verification and the administrators’ failure to pursue criminal charges, including forwarding the complaint to appropriate supervisors as required by policies established by ODNR and Governor Ted Strickland, led to the charges against the administrators.
“We determined in this case that Wildlife Administrators ignored the criminal violation of falsification and decided to handle the violation with an administrative investigation,” said OIG investigators in the report. “The investigation was incomplete because the claim that it was common practice to aid nonresidents in obtaining resident hunting licenses, and it was done with supervisor approval or knowledge, was not verified.”
“We find Wildlife Officer Wright committed an act of wrongdoing. We also find that Wildlife administrators committed wrongful acts or omissions by failing to properly investigate Officer Wright. Wildlife decided to handle the matter as a policy violation, rather than a potential criminal violation.”
The OIG did find, however, that Graham issued a memo on March 14, 2008, prohibiting Wildlife personnel from accepting out-of-state hunting licenses. Graham issued another memo on Oct. 1, 2008 prohibiting the issuance of in-state licenses to out-of-state residents.
Although Wright allegedly told investigators that “it has been common practice that in the southwest part of Ohio, officers from Kentucky and Indiana would hunt in Ohio using resident Ohio Licenses,” OIG was unable to find evidence that such a policy existed.
OIG’s investigators searched all records of hunting licenses listing a Wildlife Officer’s home address during 2006 and concluded that “Eric Vaughn had the only record that did not have the same family name of the residence, and that had a previous or subsequent out-of-state address.”
The report continues: “The results of this query demonstrate that other Wildlife officers are not making a common practice of allowing nonresidents to use officers’ addresses to obtain a resident hunting license.”
Additionally, Wright allegedly made several statements to investigators indicating that the courtesy was reserved only for wildlife officers. However, an ODNR Purchase History query of Wright’s home address revealed that Michigan resident John D. Coffin had obtained an Ohio hunting license using Wright’s address in 2001. The OIG investigators found that Coffin is an acquaintance of Wright, but is not a Wildlife Officer.
Furthermore, even if such a policy existed, the OIG investigators found that such a policy would not excuse the deliberate falsification of information on a hunting license application.
Hunting licenses are required of anyone who hunts or traps legal game in Ohio. Although hunting license applicants are not required to show proof of identification or residency, and although the information provided by applicants is not routinely verified, “the application form clearly states that ‘providing fraudulent information is a violation of 2921.13 of the Ohio Revised Code,’” according to the OIG’s report.
“Regardless, whether a policy existed at the time or not, Wright’s actions constituted criminal activity, and Wildlife should have investigated it as a criminal matter,” the OIG’s report states.
License and permit fees are the main source of funding for the Division of Wildlife, which does not directly receive taxpayer or General Revenue funds.
During interviews with Graham, Miller, Lehman, Haines and Ward-Tackett, each individual allegedly admitted to investigators that Wildlife would pursue criminal charges against any civilian who obtained or attempted to obtain a hunting license using fraudulent information.
According to Brown County Prosecutor Jessica Little, “regular people are prosecuted routinely for the exact same offense.”
“Just because you are a law enforcement officer does not make you special,” she said.
Little noted that her office does not currently intend to pursue charges related to the 2001 issuance of a resident license to Michigan resident John D. Coffin, in part because statute of limitations restrictions may apply.
As part of the investigation, the OIG also looked into allegations that the Division of Wildlife administrators instructed officers not to assist or cooperate with a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service investigation. The OIG found those allegations were not substantiated.
Following its inquiry, the Office of the Inspector General forwarded recommendations to ODNR suggesting updates to the department’s Suspected Illegal Activities Policy to Mirror the Governor’s Procedures for Notification of Employee Wrongdoing and/or Suspected Illegal Activity, specifically suggesting that ODNR policy should require all suspected illegal activity be reported immediately to the Director or Chief Legal Council of ODNR.
The Inspector General’s Office additionally recommended ODNR internally review the actions of all employees involved to determined whether their conduct warrants further administrative action or training.
The defendants are scheduled to appear in Brown County Court of Common Pleas on April 21.
The Office of the Inspector General’s report is available online at watchdog.ohio.gov.
South Carolina DNR Officer Eric Vaughn, according to the licensing info, provided fraudulent information to obtain his non-resident Ohio license. Therefore under 2921.13 Ohio Revised Code is guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree under section, (F)(1) below!
Of all the information and articles on the net and in the Court, I am not able to find any charges filed against Vaughn! I ASK WHY???
(A) No person shall knowingly make a false statement, or knowingly swear or affirm the truth of a false statement previously made, when any of the following applies:
(A)(5) The statement is made with purpose to secure the issuance by a governmental agency of a license, permit, authorization, certification, registration, release, or provider agreement.
(F)(1) Whoever violates division (A)(1),(2),(3),(4),(5),(6),(7),(8),(10),(11),(13), or (15) of this section is guilty of falsification, a misdemeanor of the first degree.
Looks like if South Carolina D.N.R. Officer Eric Vaughn fishes, he also violated South Carolina law!
(B) It is unlawful to obtain, attempt to obtain, or possess a South Carolina resident saltwater license while licensed for any purpose as a resident of another state.
South Carolina Code of Laws
SECTION 50-5-305. Requirements for obtaining resident license; penalty.
(A) To be granted a resident commercial saltwater license authorized under this chapter:
(1) an applicant must present a statement from the South Carolina Department of Revenue indicating the applicant filed a South Carolina income tax form as a resident for the previous calendar year, but a person under the age of seventeen is exempt from the requirement to provide such statement; or
(2) an applicant who did not file a South Carolina personal income tax form for the previous year must show documentation acceptable to the department proving the applicant was a resident of South Carolina for twelve consecutive months immediately prior to the date of application.
The applicant must also present an additional form of identification acceptable to the department.
(B) It is unlawful to obtain, attempt to obtain, or possess a South Carolina resident saltwater license while licensed for any purpose as a resident of another state.
(C) A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, must be fined not less than two hundred dollars nor more than two thousand five hundred dollars or imprisoned for not more than thirty days and must have his saltwater privileges suspended for twelve months.
Attorney for indicted Wildlife Division official defends client
The attorney handling one of the six indicted Ohio Division of Wildlife officials is baffled by the charges brought against his client.
Attorney Michael Cassity of Mount Orab in Brown County is representing James Lehman, the Wildlife Division’s law enforcement administrator, who has been placed on paid administrative leave.
Lehman is charged with one count of obstructing justice and one count of complicity of obstructing justice. Both are fifth-degree felonies.
The indictment against Lehman and five other Wildlife Division officials stems from an alleged incident in which the state wildlife officer assigned to Brown County - Allan Wright - was said to have allowed a South Carolina wildlife officer to use his Ohio address in order to obtain an Ohio hunting license on Nov. 5, 2006.
It is alleged that Lehman and four other high-ranking Wildlife Division officials should have handled the Wright incident differently as a criminal matter and not as an administrative matter that resulted in a verbal reprimand for Wright.
“What I’ve seen of the limited investigation I’ve been able to do would indicate there is no merit to these charges. I just don’t understand why the charges were brought. They’re talking about complicity; trying to break the law. At least my client was following what he believed was policy. Certainly when the (Ohio) Inspector General got involved there was total cooperation with my client. He participated in the Inspector General investigation and told them what he knew. He wasn’t out to hide anything,” Cassity said.
Cassity said too that the matter should be tossed out of Brown County Common Pleas Court for lack of evidence of guilt.
“I do; maybe even more than a possibility. But right now this case is in its infancy with a lot of information that has to be discovered by the defense. I don’t see, however, there is sufficient evidence to support these charges,” Cassity said.
Cassity said as well that when an attorney is experienced in criminal work he or she has a “pretty good sense of what the evidence might be about” and that sense points to a lot of nothing in this matter.
Similarly, Cassity says he is “extremely impressed” with Lehman.
“I’ve got pretty good instincts and my impression is that he is straight and plays by the rules. You know, it’s tough on him with more than 20 years with the Wildlife Division. He’s an honorable man. He was just doing his job the way he believed his job should be done,” Cassity said.
Cassity noted that he will appear before the Brown County Common Pleas Court next week along with Brown County Prosecutor Jessica A. Little for a pre-trial hearing.
At this hearing - not normally attended by the defendant - a second pre-trial date may be set as well as possibly the actual trial date.
“I don’t expect a whole lot except whether there’s been an exchange of discovery, basically must be provided by the prosecutor, possibly Friday or Monday,” Cassity said.
Efforts are being made to contact the other attorneys representing the remaining defendants.
Brown County Prosecuting Attorney, Jessica Little has “requested to the court to appoint a special prosecuting attorney for Allan Wright's case”, who has been charged with two counts of tampering with records and one count of falsification.
The Brown County prosecuting Attorney herself will be prosecuting Division of Wildlife Chief David Graham, Law Enforcement Administrator James Lehman, Human Resources Administrator Michele Ward, District 5 Manager Todd Haines and Assistant Chief of ODNR Division of Wildlife Randy Miller were each indicted on one count of obstructing justice and one count of complicity to obstruct justice each. Due to “facts and legal issues” with the above five individuals “that need to separate from Allan Wright’s Case.”
“Eric Vaughn is a material witness” in her case and she “cannot comment on his testimony.”
New Watchdog Probe Into Ohio Wildlife Licenses
COLUMBUS, Ohio—The state watchdog is investigating allegations that wildlife officers broke the law by providing out-of-state wildlife officers Ohio fishing licenses at a discount, The Associated Press has learned.
The probe by the Ohio Inspector General follows similar allegations involving a hunting license that has led to felony charges against the wildlife division’s top administrators.
All are on paid leave while they are prosecuted over the hunting license allegations.
The Ohio Division of Wildlife reprimanded two officers in 2007 for helping fellow wildlife officers from Indiana obtain Ohio fishing licenses at the lower, Ohio rate of $19, according to wildlife records released to the AP through a records request.
The officers let the Indiana officers use the Ohio address of wildlife regional offices in Xenia in southwest Ohio. Normally, the Indiana officers would have paid $40 for the license.
Indiana allows out-of-state wildlife officers who are in the state on official business to obtain hunting and fishing licenses at in-state rates. Ohio does not have a similar policy, and it is illegal to put down false information on the licenses when filling them out.
The Oct. 7, 2008, letter of reprimand indicates the officers had a supervisor’s authority to obtain the licenses.
Despite that, “This was against Division of Wildlife directive and should not be repeated again in the future,“ according to the letters signed by Todd Haines, then the manager of the Xenia office.
Haines is one of six officials who have pleaded not guilty in the 2006 case of an Ohio wildlife officer who let a South Carolina officer use his home address to receive a $19 Ohio hunting license, saving $106. Haines was charged with one count of obstructing justice and one count of complicity.
Josh Zientek, one of the wildlife officers reprimanded over the fishing license issue, declined to comment Tuesday.
“I trust the system and we’ve just got to let the system work,“ he said.
At issue with the hunting license is whether Ohio officials knowingly broke the law. Several told investigators that the practice was widespread in the past.
David Graham, chief of the Ohio Wildlife Division, told investigators the practice of providing the in-state license rate was probably outdated but he didn’t think of it as a crime.
“I just had come to the conclusion over time that it just wasn’t the probably a socially acceptable thing to do anymore,“ Graham said in a Feb. 1, 2010, interview with investigators reviewed by the AP.
However, the inspector general’s investigation of the hunting license issue released last week says officials knew what happened was illegal.
“The reality is that Wildlife administrators knew that providing false information on the hunting license application is a criminal offense,“ the report said.
Graham also acknowledged to investigators he was close friends with Allan Wright, the wildlife officer who allegedly obtained the cheaper hunting license for the South Carolina official.
Graham has pleaded not guilty to one count of obstructing justice and one count of complicity
“is a material witness” in the case and no “comment on his testimony.” However, Ohio will “not be pursuing any charges against Eric Vaughn in connection with the resident hunting license.”
John D. Coffin of Michigan.
He is the owner of Ultimate Firearms based in Michigan. Allan Wright and Chief Dave Graham hunt on Mr. Coffin's property in Michigan. Allan Wright, who is employed part-time with Bass Pro as a Pro Hunter, endorsed on line a muzzle loaders, which is manufactured by Ultimate Firearms. He endorsed it using his name and the fact he is employed as an Ohio game warden. He received a free muzzle loading rifle for his endorsement!! But herein lies another the clincher---during 2001, Allan Wright helped
Michigan resident John D. Coffin, had also obtain an Ohio resident hunting license in 2001 using Wright’s home address. Mr. Coffin is an acquaintance of Wright’s but is not a Wildlife Officer.
Jessica "Little noted that her office does not currently intend to pursue charges related to the 2001 issuance of a resident license to Michigan resident John D. Coffin, in part because statute of limitations restrictions may apply."
The defendants did not have to appear at the pretrial last week. The Court has set another pretrial in a couple weeks in which the Defendants must appear. Those pretrials will most likely be in chambers as well (not in open court). No trial dates have been set yet.
Case Number: CR 20102048
Defendant: Wright, Allan
2ND PRETRIAL HEARING SET FOR 05/11/10 @ 12:00
Case Number: CR 20102049
Defendant: Graham, David
SECOND PRE-TRIAL SET FOR 05/17/10 @ 12:00
Case Number: CR 20102050
Defendant: Lehman, James
* HEARING SET FOR 05/17/2010 AT 12:00 PM
Case Number: CR 20102051
Defendant: Tackett,Ward, Michele
HEARING SET FOR 05/17/2010 AT 12:00 PM
Case Number: CR 20102052
Defendant: Haines, Todd
SECOND PRETRIAL CONFERENCE AT THE REQUEST OF THE DEFENDANT SET FOR 5/17/10 @ NOON
If Brown County Prosecutor Jessica A. Little gets her way then the stars of Wild Ohio may soon be playing a roll on Court TV as the grand jury handed out six indictments to the top leadership of the Ohio Division of Wildlife (DOW) for an alleged cover up of criminal activity of a DOW wildlife officer.
According to the Office of the Inspector General and a staff report on the News Democrat website; David Graham, Chief of the Ohio Division of Wildlife; Randy Miller, Assistant Chief of the Division of Wildlife; James Lehman, Law Enforcement Administrator for the Division of Wildlife; Michele Ward-Tackett, Human Resource Administrator for the Division of Wildlife; Todd Haines, Division of Wildlife District 5 Manager; and Brown County Wildlife Officer Allan Wright, were served with indictments last Thursday.
The indictments are a result of a 17 page report, issued March 10, on a four month investigation conducted by the State of Ohio Office of the Inspector General that found Division of Wildlife administrators "Committed wrongful acts or omissions by failing to properly investigate Officer Wright."
The investigation revealed that Brown County Officer Allan Wright wrongfully assisted a South Carolina non-resident in obtaining a fraudulent resident hunting license in 2006 using Wright's home address. The investigation also showed in 2001 that Wrights address "was also listed on a (hunting) license of a Michigan resident whom Wright knew." Additionally Wright admitted to checking in three deer killed by the South Carolina resident.
According to the investigation "Wright knowingly recorded a false address on the harvest report when he listed his (Wright's) address". The report also said that Wright was under investigation in 2007 by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources regarding trapping violations in South Carolina.
The report showed that the Ohio Division of Wildlife District 4 Law Office issued a memo dated April 25, 2007 to all District 4 officers that stated "In recent months the Office of Law Enforcement for the U. S. Fish & Wildlife (USFW) Service has been receiving requests for assistance from Officers around the State. All requests for assistance shall now go through the Law Enforcement Supervisor for approval." According to the report, on April 29, 2009, DOW Chief David Graham extended that same directive to all Ohio Wildlife Officers.
The Inspector General's investigation also reported that Chief Graham, Assistant Chief Miller, Human Resource Manager Ward-Tackett, and Law Enforcement Administrator Lehman, and D-5 Manger Haines failed to report Wright's alleged violations to the ODNR Director or ODNR Law Enforcement Administrator Mike Taylor as required by ODNR policy and the Governor's policy even though all admitted they were aware that providing false information was a violation of law. The Inspector General found "reasonable cause to believe an act of omission occurred."
In conclusion the Inspector General Report found that Officer Wright's act resulted in producing a fraudulent hunting license and produced another false document when Wright checked the deer killed when listing his home address which is clearly a violation of the Ohio Revised Code.
The report also found DOW administrators mishandled the investigation ignoring the criminal violation and also failed to report the suspected criminal activity to the Director of the ODNR as required.
During the course of the investigation the Inspector General found instances of potential criminal behavior related to the falsification of an Ohio hunting license and other related documents.
The conclusion of the report on the Office of Inspector General's investigation found Allan Wright helped a friend in South Carolina obtain a resident hunting license, and furthermore found Wildlife Administrators failed to investigate the deception as a criminal matter.
As a result of the investigation, according to the News Democrat website who credits the information obtained from the Brown County Court of Common Pleas, the following indictments were filed on April 2 by the grand jury.
Allan Wright, Wildlife Officer, charged with two counts of tampering with records and one count of falsification for allegedly altering ODNR records in Brown County.
David Graham, Chief DOW, for one count of obstructing justice and one count of complicity to obstruct justice.
Randy Miller, Assistant Chief DOW, for one count of obstructing justice and one count of complicity to obstruct justice.
Michele Ward-Tackett, Human Resource Administrator DOW, for one count of obstructing justice and one count of complicity to obstruct justice.
Lames Lehman, Law Enforcement Administrator DOW, for one count of obstructing justice and one count of complicity to obstruct justice.
Todd Haines, District 5 Manager DOW, for one count of obstructing justice and one count of complicity to obstruct justice.
According to the News Democrat website it is alleged that the DOW administrators named in the indictments hindered the discovery, apprehension, prosecution or conviction of Allan Wright or to assist Wright to benefit from the commission of crime by obstructing any person by means of force, intimidation or deception. The complicity charge states that each of the indicated officers had aided or abetted each other in committing their obstructing justice charge.
Allan Wright has been the Brown County Wildlife Officer for 16 years and was named National Wild Turkey Federation's Wildlife Law Enforcement Officer of the Year in 2001 and was also named Brown County Officer of the Year in 2000 and received the Brown County Meritorious Service Award for exceptional service to law enforcement and the community. Wright was also on Bass Pro Shops Redhead Pro Staff and on Pro Staff for Ultimate Firearms.