Imagine buying an exclusive one-year lease to a pristine parcel of land, only to find out that the property is actually owned by a nearby casino, and you have just been caught trespassing with a firearm. That is exactly what hunters in Orange County, Indiana experienced recently, and they accused their outfitter of scamming numerous out-of-state hunters by sending them to properties he had no connection to.
According to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR), officials arrested 36-year-old Samuel Hughes this week on charges of theft after he allegedly drafted fake hunting licenses and duped his clients into trespassing on several properties across the county.
“The suspect, Mr. Hughes, had actual documents that he had prepared himself that was like a contractual lease with the people who were looking to hunt on the property. He had no contractual interest in any of the properties so that’s where the issue came into play,” DNR conservation officer Jim Hash told WDRB.
Hughes owns Nature’s Ridge Whitetails Outfitters in French Lick. Officials did not clarify whether the outfitter had legitimate connections to any properties, or if it operated purely by scamming hunters. Authorities did say that they have identified at least eight different hunters who were believed to be victims of the scam, and there may be more. Most of the hunters were from out of state.
“Officers’ investigation revealed that Hughes never had permission to lease the properties, and had drafted the written contracts with unsuspecting out-of-state hunters for fees exceeding thousands of dollars,” the DNR stated in a press release. “Indiana Conservation Officers executed a search warrant on Hughes’ cell phone, and during a subsequent interview, Hughes confessed to his involvement in the operation. He was arrested without incident on Monday.”
Nature’s Ridge Whitetails recently took down their website, Facebook page, and other social media properties, although the outfittter’s profile is still up on guidefitter.com.
“Indiana is a sleeper state for big Whitetail’s, and is coming up as one of the top sleeper states in the Midwest,” reads the profile’s description. Indiana’s fertile farm lands and sound management practices such as only being able to harvest one antlered deer contributes to this states awesome Trophy quality. Add too this being adjacent to some of the Midwest top producing Whitetail States such as Ohio, Kentucky and Illinois. Indiana has settled into a strong pattern of producing big whitetail bucks. So come along with us as we fulfill the unbridled passion for the outdoors.”
The DNR is seeking additional information and is asking for hunters who were clients of Nature’s Ridge Whitetails to contact the department.
Image courtesy Indiana Department of Natural Resources