A Northwest Ohio man was sent to prison for poaching and other crimes.
Several other individuals also were published for their respective roles in those crimes.
Robert Mandon Freeworth, 36, of Grand Rapids, was sentenced earlier this month to four years in prison for poaching and the illegal sales of wild game by Wood County Judge Reeve Kelsey, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).
Freeworth also was ordered to pay more than $5,500 in restitution and lost his right to hunt, trap and fish in Ohio for 18 years. Judge Kelsey also ordered Freeworth to forfeit more than 50 items of evidence seized during the investigation to the ODNR Division of Wildlife, including firearms, cash, white-tailed deer antlers, venison and a vehicle.
On Aug. 4, State Wildlife Officers from the ODNR Division of Wildlife served an arrest warrant on Freeworth. The arrest stemmed from a long-term investigation dubbed Operation North Coast that was closed in March 2016 when more than 45 state wildlife officers and investigators executed search warrants and conducted interviews with dozens of subjects.
Freeworth was the main suspect in the northwest Ohio portion of Operation North Coast. He was convicted of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, selling venison, tampering with records as well as three counts of tagging, checking or possessing a deer unlawfully.
Freeworth was also convicted of improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle. On several occasions he possessed or discharged a loaded firearm while in a motor vehicle. One such incident occurred January 22, 2015, when he shot at three different deer from his vehicle while hunting without permission on three different landowners’ properties and with the aid of a spotlight.
Other convictions for Freeworth include hunting without permission, such as one instance when he shot a deer with a rifle during the archery season from his vehicle while in the parking lot of a Grand Rapids store. Freeworth was ordered to pay restitution for this deer and the mount was forfeited to the state.
Freeworth was one of 22 suspects charged with 55 violations as part of Operation North Coast in northwest Ohio. Of those 55 violations, 38 of the charges, including seven felonies, led to guilty convictions, and 17 of the charges were dropped as part of plea agreements. The total restitution and court costs collected during this portion of the investigation was nearly $22,000. Violations occurred throughout four northwest Ohio counties (Wood, Lucas, Henry and Ottawa) and spanned seven different court jurisdictions.
Operation North Coast was initiated after the wildlife agency received multiple complaints from landowners, sportsmen and women, as well as the general public in reference to the illegal taking and sales of wildlife, including sportfish and deer, by subjects along Lake Erie. The case includes as many as 40 defendants throughout 10 counties. The investigation is still ongoing in several northeast Ohio counties.
Other noteworthy northwest Ohio convictions include:
Dawn R. Large, 42, of Grand Rapids, who was convicted of committing multiple deer hunting violations while with Freeworth. For killing a buck on property she did not have permission to hunt, Large was ordered to pay restitution of $2,379.45, in addition to $745 in fines and court costs, and lost her hunting, trapping and fishing privileges for three years. For her role in another unlawful activity in Henry County she pleaded guilty of possessing a firearm while intoxicated and was ordered to pay $665 in fines and court costs.
Michael P. Amos, 42, of Napoleon, who was convicted of killing a deer and failing to check it in before noon on the day after harvest. He also killed two antlered deer in 2015 and provided false information when he checked the second deer by reporting the harvest county as Lucas County rather than Wood County, and for reporting the deer as an antlerless deer instead of an antlered deer. He was ordered to pay $2,820.31 in restitution for the second buck he killed in 2015, in addition to $280.75 in court costs, and lost his hunting privileges for three years.
Lee A. Curtis, 43, of Colton, a convicted felon who was convicted of two counts of possessing a firearm while under disability. He was also convicted of hunting without permission, and for killing a deer during the archery season with a rifle and checking the deer in as an archery kill. He was ordered to pay $3,090.73 in restitution for the deer and was ordered to forfeit the deer mount to the state. Curtis was ordered to pay $509.46 in court costs and he lost his hunting, trapping and fishing privileges for nine years and was sentenced to 120 days in jail. He also was charged with killing two geese with a rifle from the road and with the aid of a motor vehicle. These charges were dismissed as part of a plea agreement, but he was required to pay $100 restitution for the two geese.
Matthew M. Langlois, 40, of Waterville and Lawrence “Andy” Turner II, 39, of Toledo, both of whom were charged with theft by deception for their roles in deceiving the Maumee Bait and Tackle during their annual walleye fishing tournament. In 2014, Lee Curtis and Matthew Langlois caught walleye on Lake Erie with the intent of entering the fish into the tournament. On April 27, 2014, Turner and Langlois used some of the fish caught from Lake Erie to win second place in the tournament and $375. The money was split between Curtis, Langlois and Turner. Langlois and Turner were ordered to pay $835 in fines and court costs. They were ordered to pay back the money they won to Maumee Bait and Tackle and to not have contact with the business for three years. They are not allowed to enter any walleye fishing tournament on the Maumee River for three years.
Robert V. Freeworth, 59, of Grand Rapids, who was charged with two counts of aiding a wildlife offender. He received more than $1,300 in fines and court costs in Henry and Wood counties combined, and lost his hunting, fishing, and trapping privileges for three years. He is Robert Mandon Freeworth’s father.
Malory J. Beasley, 31, of Grand Rapids, who was convicted of tagging and checking a deer that was killed unlawfully by her brother and was ordered to pay $441.88 in fines and court costs, and lost her hunting and fishing privileges for three years. She is Robert Mandon Feewoth’s sister.
The ODNR Division of Wildlife officials credited the Wood County Sherriff’s Office and all of the judges and prosecutors, especially Gwen Howe-Gebers, former assistant prosecutor with Wood County Common Pleas Court (currently county prosecutor in Henry County), who were involved in these cases for recognizing the importance of Ohio’s fish and wildlife resources.
In addition, this case would not have been possible without information provided by concerned citizens. To report wildlife violations call the Turn In a Poacher (TIP) line at 1-800-POACHER (1-800-762-2437) or to submit information online at wildohio.gov. All information received by the TIP program will remain confidential.