Milwaukee Sheriff Poached Canadian Bear
One of two men convicted for poaching, Facebook played major role in the bust.
And Facebook played a major role in the bust, court documents show.
Reid Viertel, a disabled firefighter who led hunting parties without a permit in Ontario, pleaded guilty to illegally importing both a timber wolf and a black bear.
“Viertel was suspected of operating an illegal guiding service in Ontario and illegally killing wolves, deer, bears and other wildlife,” according to the plea agreement in his case.
Terry Schmit, a Milwaukee County deputy sheriff, pleaded guilty to importing the bear.
The charges resulted from a 2014 Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources criminal probe into illegal hunting activities of Viertel and several associates, including Schmit, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a press statement.
“In both instances, Viertel falsified export documents from Ontario for the purpose of importing the animal carcasses into the United States,” the prosecution said.
Ontario export records show Viertel had an export permit for four wolves, two fox, one fisher and three weasels that are purportedly “gifts” to him from an Ontario trapper. He also used an associate’s bear tag, lied to investigators and had a forged receipt for the wildlife.
Investigators “covertly researched Viertel’s Facebook page on which he had posted numerous photographs and comments about the wildlife he and his associates killed,” the pleas agreement said. That included a picture of a dead wolf he shot over a bait site with a .270 rifle.
One photo showed Schmit posing with the dead bear and a comment that he’d shot it.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service worked with Canadian authorities on the investigation.
In addition to the U.S. charges under the Lacey Act, both men were convicted in Canada for illegal hunting.
In Viertel’s sentencing memorandum, his attorney described him as a “law-abiding and exemplary citizen prior to the offenses,” an honorably discharged Air Force veteran and a disabled Greenfield firefighter.
“Viertel regrets his actions and the poor decisions he made,” defense lawyer Adam Essling of Milwaukee wrote. Noting that his client had been fined $6,275 in Canada and lost his right to hunt there for 15 years,” Essling said in the memorandum, “This is significant in that Viertel is an avid hunter and fisherman. Viertel also has lost numerous friends as a result of the charges.”
Viertel was ordered to spend the 2016 deer gun season — Nov. 19-27 — in prison, fined $5,000 and placed on probation for three years, including at least 25 hours a year of “environmental community service” such as wildlife education. He’s banned from hunting fishing and trapping anywhere in North America until January 2021.
Schmit was fined $1,000 and banned from those activities in North America until Janaury 2019.
The maximum penalty they faced on the charges was one year behind bars and a $100,000 fine.
This story was originally published by Great Lakes Echo.