Crime & Punishment: A Case of Whitetail Trafficking


Crime and punishmentWhitetail trafficking? Yes, that’s what I said. It is a very serious crime, and a very high dollar crime. But, in this case, it is the criminals who are paying big bucks! In fact, one of these criminals is paying the largest wildlife restitution ever ordered in U.S. history. Before looking at the crime, let’s take a look at the law surrounding this case.

The Law

First, whitetail trafficking is a violation of the Lacey Act, which is as follows:

  • Under theLacey Act, it is unlawful to import, export, sell, acquire, or purchase fish, wildlife or plants that are taken, possessed, transported, or sold: 1) in violation of U.S. or Indian law, or 2) in interstate or foreign commerce involving any fish, wildlife, or plants taken possessed or sold in violation of State or foreign law.
  • The law covers all fish and wildlife and their parts or products, plants protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and those protected by State law. Commercial guiding and outfitting are considered to be a sale under the provisions of the Act.
  • In 2008, theLacey Act was amended to include a wider variety of prohibited plants and plant products, including products made from illegally logged woods, for import.
  • When the Lacey Act was passed in 1900, it became the first federal law protecting wildlife. It enforces civil and criminal penalties for the illegal trade of animals and plants. Today it regulates the import of any species protected by international or domestic law and prevents the spread of invasive, or non-native, species.

For more information on the Lacey Act and how it relates to injurious wildlife, visit the Office of Law Enforcement. ( Okay, so maybe you didn’t read that whole thing. But, you now have a general idea of what the Lacey Act covers and how it relates to whitetail trafficking. Now, let’s move on to the crime.

The Criminals

Let’s start by identifying the guilty parties in this case. First up is Donald Wainwright, Sr., 49, of Live Oak, Florida. Wainwright, Sr. was co-owner, operator, and part-time resident of Valley View Whitetails of Florida and Ohio.

Next, is Donald Wainwright, Jr., 29, also of Live Oak, Florida. Wainwright, Jr. was part-time operator and resident of Valley View Whitetails of Ohio.

And, finally is Benjamin Chason, 61, of Climax, Georgia. Chason was co-owner, operator, and part-time resident of Valley View Whitetails of Ohio. Chason also owned another high-fence whitetail hunting operation in Climax, Georgia.

The Crime

Okay, so we’ve identified the criminals. Now, let’s take a look at the crimes. The co-conspirators (Wainwright, Sr. and Chason) were charged with illegally shipping deer from Ohio to Florida, and attempting to ship deer from Ohio to Georgia. The pair were also charged with selling illegal whitetail hunts at Valley View Whitetails in Ohio. Hunters were charged anywhere from $1,000 to $50,000 for these hunts. Apparently, Wainwright, Sr. was not licensed to operate a hunting preserve. And, finally, Chason and Wainwright, Sr. purchased a trophy buck that had not been tested for disease, and placed a federal tag from another certified tested buck on that purchased trophy. The pair then sold breeding services and semen using the untested trophy buck.

The Punishments

Now you know who and what, so, let’s look at the punishments. I’ll start again with Donald Wainwright, Sr. So, here they are:

Donald Wainwright, Sr.-pleaded guilty to 12 charges related to violating the Lacey Act, one count of conspiracy and one count of wire fraud. His punishment:

  • 21 months in prison
  • $125,000 fine
  • 200 hours of community service to be served in a parks system
  • Wainwright, Sr. was also ordered to publish an article in The Deer Breeders Gazette

Donald Wainwright, Jr.-pleaded guilty to eight charges related to offering illegal hunts in violation the Lacey Act. The punishment:

  • four months of house arrest
  • three years of probation

Benjamin Chason-pleaded guilty to charge of conspiracy and two charges of attempted interstate trafficking of wildlife. The punishment: Well, Chason was ordered to pay the largest ever wildlife restitution in U.S. history, along with a fine and other punishments. The restitution amount? $1.3 million! Yes, that’s right. So, when you add in the other fines, Chason will be paying a total of $1.6 million. Here is the total breakdown of Chason’s restitution payout:

  • $600,000 to the Ohio DNR’s Wildlife Habitat Fund
  • $400,000 to the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks for conservation, acquisition, and improvement of wildlife habitats and for children’s educational conservation programs
  • $200,000 to the DNR’s Endangered Species and Wildlife Diversity Fund
  • $100,000 to DNR’s Turn in a Poacher (TIPS) program.

Chason’s other punishments include:

  • $300,000 fine for violation of the Lacey Act
  • three years probation, which includes one year of not using a firearm and not participating in a hunt
  • four months of home detention
  • 150 hours of community service in a Georgia or Ohio state park,with such duties as litter control
  • Chason was also ordered to publish a government-approved statement in North American Whitetail magazine admitting to his crime and warning others not to engage in illegal deer trafficking

To ensure compliance, Chason also agreed to unannounced inspections from the Ohio and Georgia DNR, Ohio Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Final Thoughts

Well, there you go, you know now this case of crime & punishment: the case of whitetail trafficking and the largest wildlife restitution ever paid in U.S. history; but, what do you think? Do the punishments fit the crimes? Overall, I think justice was served. My one issue with the punishment is this, when a wildlife crime of this proportion has been committed, hunting privileges should be revoked for life! I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions! Please share in the comments section below, or as always, you can contact me at

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