Updated Saturday, July 15, 2006 7:32 PM MDT
Daily Press News Editor
MONTROSE — Years after he allegedly committed wildlife violations as
part of a poaching ring, Wisconsin resident Fred Brandon Sales is
answering criminal charges in the local courts.
Sales, 24, was charged this year with 12 counts, including three
felony allegations of willful destruction of wildlife. He was also
charged with three counts each of illegal possession of wildlife;
hunting without a license and wildlife offenses (failure to dress edible
game meat), all misdemeanors.
Sales’ attorney could not be reached for comment on the allegations.
He is next due in court Aug. 28.
Division of Wildlife investigators said in an affidavit that while on
the Uncompahgre Plateau in 2001, Sales killed a 5 x 6 bull elk, took its
head as a trophy and left the carcass to rot, in violation of state law.
He is also accused of complicity in the killing and similar disposal of
a 6 x 6 bull elk that was reportedly taken down by George Waters.
DOW Investigator Eric Schaller said Saturday Waters would conceal his
ill-gotten trophies for a year before retrieving them and passing them
off as winter-kill animals that had died naturally. He apparently sold
his poached trophies, which helped lead investigators to him. Waters is
now one of several men serving federal prison time as the result of his
poaching activities in Colorado and Iowa.
When the DOW and other agencies began investigating Waters in 2002,
Sales’ name surfaced, as did that of Waters’ nephew, Brent. The DOW
alleged none of the three men had a valid elk-hunting license in
Wildlife agents spoke to Brent Waters in 2003 and alleged he admitted
to having killed a 6 x 6 bull elk in Colorado in Sept. 2001. Brent
Waters is said to have told investigators that Sales killed a 5 x 5 bull
elk on the same hunt, and that all three of them threw most of the meat
George Waters reportedly hung his trophy bull’s head in a tree, while
Brent Waters and Sales allegedly hid the antlers from their bulls in
some brush. Brent Waters reportedly told investigators he and Sales came
back in 2002 to collect the antlers. However, they were unable to find
the rack from the elk killed by George Waters.
Investigators said that in subsequent interviews, Sales admitted to
killing a bull, throwing away the antlers and assisting Brent Waters in
hiding his bull. They allegedly helped George Waters wrap the head and
antlers of his bull with paper towels and duct tape, which they spray
painted over before hanging in a tree.
In another interview, Sales allegedly admitted shooting an antelope
in Weld County, leaving behind most of the meat and hiding the head in a
Brent Waters denied killing any antelope in Colorado, though
according to the affidavit, he fingered Sales as having done so. He also
said that though he’d hunted elk in Colorado in 2005, he hadn’t killed
Brent Waters has since been prosecuted under the federal Lacy Act,
which prohibits the transport of unlawfully taken or unlawfully
possessed wildlife across state lines.
“The decision was made to prosecute Brent Waters federally and
Brandon Sales at the state level,” Schaller said.
Though it has been close to five years since the alleged violations
were committed, the statute of limitations is not applicable in Sales’
case, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Myrl Serra, who says
the limitation “tolls,” or stops when a suspect leaves the state.
“It’s like it happened yesterday,” he said. “The statute of
limitations isn’t an issue.”
Sales’ arrest affidavit alleges Sales was only present in Colorado
for hunts and retrieval trips, but lived in Wisconsin and held both
driver’s license and vehicle registrations there.
Serra said Sales also faces destruction of wildlife charges in Weld
County, over the alleged antelope kill. Attempts were being made to
resolve both the Montrose and the Weld County cases together.
If Sales is convicted, he could face from one to three years on each
felony count, plus fines. Under the 1998 Sampson Act — named for a
trophy bull elk killed illegally in Rocky Mountain National Park — Sales
could also be fined an additional $10,000 for each offense found to be
in violation of the act.
Tony Gurzick, DOW assistant regional manager, said it’s possible
Sales could lose his license if he is convicted of the offenses.
Conviction counts against hunting license points and hunters who
accumulate 20 or more violation points in a five-year period can lose
hunting and fishing privileges for up to five years. Anyone convicted of
illegal possession or willful destruction of wildlife can lose his or
her license for anywhere from one year to life.
The penalties are about ethics and fairness, Gurzick said.
“One of the main purposes of hunting is to provide food. We don’t
want to promote people killing animals and not taking care of the meat
for human consumption. It’s an ethical issue of using the game in a
Gurzick also said wildlife offenses impact law-abiding hunters. “It
takes opportunities away from them when people are taking animals
illegally. It also gives hunting in general a bad reputation that’s not
He urged the public to report wildlife offenses to the Operation Game
Thief hotline, toll-free, at (877) 265-6648. Reports can be made