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From the local newspaper

More news on the Adams County Ohio illegal hunting operation

In a scam that has rocked Adams County, father and son duo, Elmer and Joseph Payne owners of Lethal Impact Outfitters, have been cited with a multitude of charges ranging from turkey hunting over bait to providing false information. Additional charges are forthcoming pending completion of the investigation by the Ohio Division of Wildlife and the Adams County Prosecutor's Office. Those charges are just the tip of the iceberg; however, as the pair allegedly used land in Adams County, without prior landowner consent, to set up a highly successful deer and turkey hunting outfitter and guide service that is estimated to have produced over $80,000 in a year's time.

The duo would book high paying hunts with unsuspecting cliental on property that was not theirs to hunt on. Lethal Impact Outfitters was endorsed by several hunting product companies and had a line up of hunting videos.

According to Kathy Behr, information and education officer for the Ohio Division of Wildlife, additional charges could be filed as early as April 20.The first citations were filed with the Adams County Municipal Court on March 19, 2008.

Those charged were Elmer Payne, age 64, of West Union, with possessing a dead deer that was not accompanied by valid tag, attaching a temporary tag to a deer taken by another person, and providing false information on a deer harvest record.

Also charged was Joseph Payne, age 31, of Sharonville, with hunting without permission, hunting wild turkey over bait and providing false information on a deer harvest record.

The Paynes are scheduled to appear in court at 1 p.m., April 20.

The charges stem from a joint undercover investigation conducted by the Ohio Division of Wildlife at the request of the Adams County Prosecutor's Office. According to sources inside the prosecutor's office at least four to five undercover agents took part in the operation.

A complaint was received by the Adams County Prosecutor's Office in early January, 2008, about possible illegal hunting activity on a 400 acre farm located west of West Union on state Route 136. During the fall of 2007, the caretaker of the property ran into hunters on two different occasions that allegedly produced signed permission-to-hunt slips that were not signed by the landowner but were instead signed liability forms by Lethal Impact Outfitters. The caretaker reported the incidents to the owners of the property who had no knowledge of the activity and, in turn, forwarded that information directly to the prosecutor's office.

On Jan. 9, 2008, the Adams County Prosecutor's Office informed Adams County Wildlife Officer Chris Gilkey of the suspected activities and, subsequently it was decided by the Division of Wildlife to launch a joint undercover operation with the prosecutor's office during the 2008 hunting season.

A number of undercover officers booked hunts with Lethal Impact Outfitters who operated in both Adams and Jackson counties. Through the undercover investigation, enough evidence was collected to obtain search warrants and interview a number of people involved. There were also video tapes of the hunts. According to those with knowledge of the case, as many as five people could be charged. Charges could also be pending in Jackson County.

Lethal Impact Outfitters charged $1,000 for a three-day turkey hunt, and $1,500 for a five-day deer hunt. According to sources, it is estimated that 20-25 deer hunters, mostly from out of state, took advantage of the local hunts during the 2008 season. The services Lethal Impact Outfitters provided was to set up a deer stand and provide a guide, also motor home and camper parking was available on the property of one of those charged.

According to the Lethal Impact Outfitters website (which has now been taken down) "More then 1,500 acres in Jackson and Adams Counties with natural forest, swamps and beaver ponds, natural funnels & pinch points to get you a shot at a buckeye trophy class buck."

Allegedly, several adjoining properties were also illegally used during their hunts to cross and gain access without landowner consent, plus other scattered properties in Adams County were also used by the outfitters as well according to Kenneth Dick, investigator for the Adams County Prosecutors Office.

"Together these cases will be handled as one case because of the difficulty in proving dates and times the various properties were illegally used," said Dick.

Although Division of Wildlife officers are not allowed to speak or comment on pending or ongoing cases, a myriad of charges can be expected, including several trespassing violations and hunting without permission citations.

"The charges we (Adams County Prosecutors Office) will present before the grand jury is something to the effect of an unauthorized use of property," said Dick. "Which means these individual's used another individual's property without their knowledge for financial gain."

According to unnamed sources, other undercover investigations into this type of illegal outfitting activity is ongoing and at least one other outfitter immediately shut down his operation following the Cincinnati Enquirer newspaper article that appeared in last Sunday's edition.

Dave Brown, law enforcement supervisor with the Division of Wildlife, asks that anybody with information on this type of illegal activity please contact the Ohio Division of Wildlife District 5 office at (937) 372-9261.
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