Chillicothe, Mo. -- Two Livingston County men have been convicted in felony wildlife cases involving illegal spotlighting of raccoons from a motorized vehicle and the illegal sale and intent to sell raccoon pelts. The case began with arrests in December by Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) agents and recently concluded with a prison sentence for one defendant and probation for another.
Lester L. Hines, 52, of Avalon, pleaded guilty on June 11 to illegal sale of wildlife with a value greater than $500. During the investigation, Hines admitted that he and an associate had spotlighted and killed raccoons while riding an all-terrain vehicle and that they planned to sell the pelts. He also told investigators that 57 pelts were sold earlier. On Aug. 13, he was sentenced in Livingston County Circuit Court to seven years in prison. Sentencing involved non-wildlife related charges.
Billy F. Hicks, 53, of Avalon, pleaded guilty on July 9 to illegal sale of wildlife with a value greater than $500. On Sept. 16, a judge suspended imposition of a four-year prison sentence and placed Hicks on four years of probation. His hunting, fishing and trapping privileges were also revoked for five years.
On Dec. 17, 2012, a conservation agent noticed Hines and Hicks riding in a van in Livingston County. He knew both were convicted felons and neither man had a valid driver’s license. The Missouri Highway Patrol was notified and a trooper stopped the van. A conservation agent arrived on the scene to help search the van and found 125 raccoon pelts. Those pelts were later valued by a fur buyer at $1,023.
During a subsequent investigation, Hines told agents that all the raccoons had been shot while using spotlights while riding on an ATV, which is illegal under the Wildlife Code of Missouri. Firearms, drug paraphernalia, drug residue, spotlights, and a raccoon carcass were seized during a search of the suspects’ home and garage.
MDC encourages citizens to report tips about poaching to Operation Game Thief at 1-800, 392-1111. Rewards are available for information leading to an arrest of a game-law violator, and all information is kept confidential.