WASHINGTON – Christopher W. Loncarich, 55, of Mack, Colorado, pleaded guilty in federal court in Denver to a felony conspiracy charge stemming from his sale of outfitting services for illegal mountain lion and bobcat hunts in Colorado and Utah, the Justice Department announced.
Loncarich pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act. The Lacey Act is a federal law that makes it illegal to knowingly transport or sell in interstate commerce any wildlife that has been taken or possessed in violation of state laws or regulations.
According to an indictment returned by the grand jury for the District of Colorado on Jan. 7, 2014, and the plea agreement, Loncarich conspired with others to provide numerous illegal hunts of mountain lions and bobcats in Colorado and Utah from 2007 to 2010. In particular, Loncarich and his confederates trapped, shot and caged mountain lions and bobcats prior to hunts in order to provide easier chases of the cats for clients. Loncarich also admits that he and his assistants guided several hunters that did not possess a Utah mountain lion or bobcat license on mountain lion or bobcat hunts in Utah. Loncarich’s base of operations in Mack, Colorado, is approximately five miles from the Utah-Colorado border. Loncarich sold mountain lion hunts for between $3,500 and $7,500 and bobcat hunts for between $700 and $1,500 and shared a portion of the proceeds from successful hunts with his assistant guides.
Three of Loncarich’s assistant guides have previously pleaded guilty to Lacey Act violations in connection with their guiding activities with Loncarich. On July 30, 2014, Loncarich’s lead assistant guide, Nicholaus J. Rodgers, pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act in connection with his work for Loncarich.
The maximum penalty for conspiring to violate the Lacey Act is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Under the terms of the plea agreement, the prosecution agreed to a sentencing calculation pursuant to the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines but did not agree on a term of imprisonment, an amount of fines or an amount of restitution. A sentencing hearing for Loncarich is set for Nov. 20, 2014.The case was investigated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. The case is being prosecuted by the Environmental Crimes Section of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.