By Lillian Schrock
A federal judge handed down probation sentences in Casper on Friday to three members of a Newcastle ranching family for participating in the illegal sale of landowner hunting licenses.
Donald Wayne Rawhouser and his sons Timothy Charles Rawhouser and Randy Joe Rawhouser each entered into plea agreements to have additional charges dismissed.
The case dates to 2010 and originates from a lengthy undercover investigation that revealed a number of alleged wildlife violations.
Timothy Rawhouser pleaded guilty to falsifying wildlife records, a misdemeanor. He received six months of supervised probation and a $1,000 fine, to be paid to the Lacey Act Reward Fund.
The Lacey Act is a conservation law that prohibits the trade of plants and wildlife that have been acquired illegally.
Randy Rawhouser pleaded guilty to attempting to aid and abet wildlife trafficking, also a misdemeanor. The judge described him as the least involved in the illegal activity. He received six months of supervised probation and a $2,500 fine.
Donald Rawhouser, who the judge stated was the most culpable of the three, pleaded guilty to wildlife trafficking and aiding and abetting, a felony. He received one year of probation and a $5,000 fine.
Each man was also ordered to pay $6,000 in restitution to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
As a felon, longtime hunter Donald Rawhouser will no longer be permitted to own or be around firearms. Timothy and Randy Rawhouser are forbidden from applying for hunting licenses in the next six years. All three have been on a self-imposed hunting ban since 2011.
The men were described by their attorney, Julia Stancil, as lifelong ranchers who regularly donate to charities and often step up to rebuild communities devastated by natural disasters, such as the 2013 Loveland flood.
Stancil rebuked rumors that the illegal sale of homeowner tags by the Rawhousers had been going on for many years.
Lisa Foster, daughter and sister of the defendants, described the ordeal as a “horrific nightmare” for her family.
“Some days I am so consumed with the case that it’s hard to focus on daily activities,” Foster said.
Another defendant in the case, Rodney Muller, of Nebraska, was sentenced in May to one year of supervised probation and ordered to pay restitution.
In a plea agreement, Muller pleaded guilty to wildlife trafficking and aiding and abetting. Muller transported a bull elk across state lines in 2009 with knowledge it had been poached.
Another Newcastle defendant, James William Lewis, entered into a plea agreement and pleaded guilty to falsifying wildlife records. His sentencing is set for June 19.
It’s illegal in Wyoming to sell landowner licenses. They can be shared, but only with immediate family members, said Brian Olsen, Casper regional wildlife supervisor for Wyoming Game and Fish.
The licenses are available only to people who meet certain criteria, including ownership of at least 160 acres. They offer one main advantage over a regular hunting license – lack of competition.