Photo via digital504/Instagram
A deer lounges at the bottom of a Broadview Heights driveway.
Investigators with the Ohio Division of Wildlife uncovered
an illicit deer poaching ring that involved eight people and over a ton of meat sold.
Those charged, as of June 6, are John Zayac, who appears to have been the ringleader, Todd Neczeporenko, John Stofam, Terrance Ankrom, Rebecca Gregerson, Tina Ankrom, John Frost and Craig Steed.
They've been slapped with a whopping 66 total charges, such as money laundering, grand theft and tampering with records.
"These are racketeers in camouflage," Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor James Gutierrez said at a press conference on June 6.
Ohio has a host of regulations
for deer hunting, including attire and limited dates.
Cuyahoga is one of only six
"four deer counties" in the state, meaning area hunters can kill four deer over the 2016-17 hunting season. Most counties allow for two.
But this deer poaching group, according to a Cuyahoga Country grand jury, is accused of killing dozens.
According to prosecutors, this took place from 2013 to 2016, primarily in Broadview Heights, Brecksville and North Royalton on private properties.
Zayac neglected to report the total number of deer they hunted, and his and Terrance Ankrom's wives, Gregerson and Tina Ankrom, listed larger, meatier bucks as doe when tagging them for the state (which keeps track of hunted deer).
Once they ran out of legal deer killings of their own, the group began attributing them to uninvolved family members.
Smokin' T's, Neczeporenko's meat processing plant in Ashtabula, ground the deer meat carcasses Zayac brought them; this is illegal because the animals were poached.
Investigators discovered that Zayac, now 70, had been illegally hunting deer since the 1980s, after finding a notebook detailing the hits in his home. They also claimed over 50 buck head taxidermies, one of which was worth $19,000, along with $50,000 in cash and a Ford truck from the residence.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources says the group racked up
thousands of dollars from selling around 3,000 pounds of deer meat.
The eight could spend 55 years in prison, and be forced to pay the state $225,000 if found guilty of all the aforementioned charges.