Six West Virginia eastern panhandle residents have been arrested and charged with various violations of wildlife laws in both West Virginia and Virginia following a joint undercover investigation by wildlife law enforcement officers of both states. Most of the charges involved multiple game law violations and other criminal activities, including the illegal killing and transportation of deer and deer parts.
Friday, Nov. 8, 2013, search warrants were executed by members of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR) and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) at two residences in the Hedgesville, W.Va. area. The search warrants resulted from a joint undercover investigation conducted by West Virginia and Virginia that began in early September 2013, when officers in WVDNR District 2 headquarters in Romney received information of an illegal deer processing operation. Suspects involved in the operation were believed to be illegally killing deer as well as obtaining large quantities of crop damage permits from various farmers and individuals, then using those permits to kill numerous deer that were then processed and illegally sold.
WVDNR officers had long suspected that the individuals named in the warrants had been operating an illegal deer processing enterprise which was believed to have been illegally selling deer in West Virginia as well as transporting deer and processed deer meat to surrounding states. Based on the new information, District 2 Capt. T.R. Stuckey assigned undercover WVDNR Natural Resources Police Officers to attempt to infiltrate the organization, determine the extent of the operation and identify any suspects who might be involved in the illegal taking, sale or transport of wildlife out of West Virginia.
“Early into this investigation it became apparent that this was a large scale operation which was in fact illegally killing wildlife, processing and selling it and potentially transporting it out of West Virginia,” said Capt. Stuckey. “Once these facts were established by numerous undercover buys of wildlife and wildlife parts in West Virginia by our undercover officers, a joint investigation was launched in conjunction with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.”
Virginia Conservation Police officials assigned their undercover unit to assist WVDNR with the investigation. A Virginia undercover agent made numerous buys of butchered deer which came from the WV operation and were transported by suspects involved in this network into Virginia.
“We were delighted to be able to help West Virginia shut down this poaching ring,” said Col. Ron Henry, VDGIF’s Chief of Law Enforcement. “Our wildlife belongs to everyone and should never be sold or otherwise exploited for personal gain.”
In addition to illegal wildlife purchases, Virginia and West Virginia undercover agents also made buys of illegal drugs in both states from the same suspects.
Search warrants were executed Nov. 8 by WVDNR officers at the residence of Steve Tyson and Max Tyson Jr. in the Hedgesville area. Brothers Max Tyson Jr. and Steve Tyson and Steve Tyson’s wife Debra Tyson were charged with multiple game law violations as well as other crimes. Officers eradicated or seized 341 marijuana plants valued at more than $351,000 growing in three separate garden areas. In addition to the charges filed in West Virginia, multiple charges are pending on Max Tyson Jr. and other suspects in Virginia.
Based on evidence recovered as a result of the search warrants, several other individuals have been identified as being involved in wildlife-related crimes in West Virginia as well as Virginia. Additional charges are pending against those suspects once the full extent of their involvement is determined during this ongoing investigation.
The following is a summary of the charges filed at this time:
West Virginia charges pending in local courts:
Max E. Tyson Jr. 61 years of age, Hedgesville, W.Va.
- Illegal Sale of Wildlife (Deer) 10 Counts
- Illegal transport of Wildlife out of State (butchered deer) 34 Counts
- Conspiracy to Violate West Virginia Code Chapter 20 3 Counts
- Killing Deer Closed Season 18 Counts
- Spotlighting Deer 10 Counts
- Taking Deer with Illegal Weapon 7 Counts
- Illegal Possession of Deer 9 Count
- Felon in Possession of a Firearm 2 Counts
- Driving while Operators License Revoked (DUI) 3 Counts
- Delivery of Schedule I Controlled Substance (Felony) 1 Count
- Possession with Intent to Deliver Schedule I Controlled Substance (Felony) 1 Count Cultivation of Marijuana (Felony) 1 Count
Steven B Tyson, 56 years of age, Hedgesville, W.Va.
- Illegal Possession of Wildlife 5 Counts
- Conspiring 2 Counts
- Illegal Possession of Moonshine 1 Count
Debra L. Tyson, 56 Years of age, Hedgesville, W.Va.
- Illegal Sale of Wildlife 1 Count
- Conspiring 1 Count
Sherman L. Parsons Jr., 38 Years of age, Glengary, W.Va.
- Taking Deer Closed Season 1 Count
- Illegal Possession of Wildlife (Deer) 1Count
- Improper Checking of Deer 1 Count
Raymond E. Malcom, age 39, Gerrardstown, W.Va.
- Illegal Possession of Deer 1 Count
- Conspiring 1 Count
- Driving Suspended 1 Count
- No Proof of Insurance 1 Count
Michael A. Benner, age 19, Martinsburg, W.Va.
- Illegal Transportation of Wildlife out of State 10 Counts
- Illegal Possession of Wildlife (Deer) 10 Counts
- Conspiring 1 Count
Charges against suspects in Virginia are pending for multiple counts of illegally selling wildlife (Class 6 Felony) as well as two counts of Distribution of Marijuana, more than ½ ounce but less than 5 pounds (Class 4 Felony).
Punishment for conviction of Virginia felonies:
- For Class 6 felonies, a term of imprisonment of not less than one year nor more than five years, or in the discretion of the jury or the court trying the case without a jury, confinement in jail for not more than 12 months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both.
For Class 4 felonies, a term of imprisonment of not less than two years nor more than 10 years and, subject to subdivision (g), a fine of not more than $100,000.
Logo courtesy West Virginia Division of Natural Resources