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Bama Deer Farmer Staring At $750,000 Fine For Illegal Transport
If approved by the U.S. District Court, this will be the state's largest game violation fine ever.
By Mike Bolton
Posted Thursday October 5 2017, 10:28 AM
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Birmingham charged Northport’s Lewis H. Skinner, 56, and his associate, 56-year-old Franklin Banks Loden, with transporting and receiving deer from out of state. The fine could be $750,000.
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In what is already well on its way of becoming the most expensive game violation in Alabama state history, a Sumter County deer-breeding farm owner and his associate have been charged by federal officials with transporting Indiana deer into Alabama.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Birmingham charged Northport’s Lewis H. Skinner, 56, and his associate, 56-year-old Franklin Banks Loden, with transporting and receiving the deer. Their actions violated both Alabama state laws and the federal Lacey Act, officials said.

While announcing the charges, federal prosecutors also said they are seeking approval in U.S. District Court for a plea agreement with Skinner and Loden. In that agreement, Skinner has agreed to pay $750,000 which includes $650,000 in restitution to the State of Alabama and a $100,000 fine. He will also surrender his Alabama Game Breeders License and has agreed not to participate in the commercial deer breeder industry ever again.

Alabama Conservation Law Enforcement officials said if approved by the court, the $750,000 fine and restitution would be by far the largest for a game violation in state history.

According to federal documents, Skinner owned and controlled Skinner Farms, a deer breeding business in Sumter County. Skinner had a deer breeder permit from the State of Alabama and was well aware that Alabama is a state that prohibits importing deer from other states, the charges stated.

Documents show that in November 2016, Loder, at Skinner’s direction, was transporting six captive-bred whitetail deer from Indiana to Skinner Farms in Sumter County when he was stopped by law enforcement in Tuscaloosa.

Investigators discovered that some of the illegally transported deer did not have the required identification for the Chronic Wasting Disease Herd Certification Program.

Alabama is a CWD-free state, and state officials have long feared that it could be brought here by unlawful transportation of deer from states that have the disease. There are 261 licensed game-breeders in the state.

CWD is a disease that affects the central nervous system of white-tailed deer. The disease causes lesions on the brain causing deer to display abnormal behavior, lose bodily functions and die. CWD is 100 percent fatal.

The disease has been documented in 23 U.S. states and has been found in both free-ranging and captive deer. It has been documented in free-ranging deer in Arkansas and captive deer in Texas, but never in Alabama or surrounding states.

“The illegal transport of deer from outside the State of Alabama by a licensed deer breeder motivated solely by profit places our entire whitetail deer herd at risk of this fatal disease,” Matt Weathers, Alabama’s chief of Conservation Law Enforcement, said in a prepared statement. “The charge and plea agreement in this case are evidence of the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division's steadfast dedication to protecting the wildlife resources of the State of Alabama.”
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