Climax man fined $1.6 million for deer trafficking

Published 11:51 am Thursday, September 17, 2015

Benjamin Neely Chason, 61, of Climax, was convicted in Ohio of illegally trafficking white-tailed deer and ordered to pay $1.6 million in fines and sentenced to three years of probation.

According to federal officials, this is the largest amount an individual has paid in relation to a wildlife crime in U.S. history.

The U.S. District Court of Ohio sentenced Chason in May. The court documents were unsealed Monday. According to The Columbus-Dispatch, Chason has already paid the fine.

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Chason was charged one count of Conspiracy and two counts of Attempted Interstate Wildlife Trafficking. He pleaded guilty May 1.

Court documents show that Chason, in violation of the Lacey Act, attempted to sell and/or purchase white-tailed deer and transport them into Georgia and Florida from Ohio.

The herds Chason was trafficking were not certified disease-free, meaning the government has not approved them as free from tuberculosis, brucellosis and chronic wasting disease. Transfer of these diseases to cattle could have serious economic impact on a community, and transmission of the diseases to humans can result in illness.

“Furthermore, White-tailed deer hunting is a multi-billion dollar industry in the U.S.; the infection of deer herds with tuberculosis, brucellosis, and especially chronic wasting disease would cause immense economic loss to communities dependent upon hunting revenue, including many in Ohio,” court documents read.

Documents also show four co-conspirators in the case, including Donald W. Wainwright, part owner and resident of the hunting preserve Valley View Whitetails in Ohio and owner, resident and operator of a preserve in Florida by the same name.

Chason was also part owner of Valley View Whitetails in Ohio and sole owner of Cherokee Whitetails, LLC, a deer breeding facility in Ohio. Court documents show he was an owner and resident of an “extensive high-fenced property containing White-tailed deer” in Climax.