Acting United States Attorney Susan Lehr announced that Jennifer M. Payne, 45, of North Platte, Nebraska, was sentenced today in federal court in Lincoln, Nebraska, for a violation of the Lacey Act. Senior United States District Judge John M. Gerrard sentenced Payne to 2 years’ probation for unlawful transportation of wildlife in interstate commerce. Payne was ordered to pay a fine in the amount of $5,000, restitution in the amount of $5,000, and to complete 100 hours of community service. As part of her probation terms, Payne shall not hunt, fish, trap, provide guiding or outfitting services, or assist or be present with anyone engaged in those activities during the term of probation.
A joint investigation conducted by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Law Enforcement Division determined that in September of 2019, Payne conducted a guided mule deer hunt during the archery season. During the hunt, Payne unlawfully shot a mule deer in Lincoln County, Nebraska, and subsequently caused parts of the unlawfully taken trophy deer to be shipped to a commercial tannery located in Michigan.
Payne admitted that in the fall of 2019, she participated in a mule deer hunt with Noble Outdoors, a commercial big game guiding business located in North Platte, Nebraska. During the hunt, Payne, while guided by Noble Outdoors owner, and accompanied by another Noble Outdoors client, unlawfully shot a mule deer buck with 5 X 5 antlers in velvet during closed season hours between 10 PM and 12 AM on September 7, 2019, from a seated position within the passenger compartment of a vehicle parked upon a public roadway. The vehicle was being operated by the Noble Outdoors owner. In addition, Payne shot the mule deer with a 6.5 mm Creedmoor rifle outfitted with a suppressor and a thermal scope. Afterwards, Payne and the Noble Outdoors owner posed for night-time photographs with the mule deer and a crossbow in attempt to conceal the fact Payne unlawfully killed the deer with a firearm during the archery season. Under Nebraska state law, hunters are prohibited from possessing firearms or using firearms to hunt deer during the archery season, are prohibited from shooting from or over a roadway, and are authorized to hunt only during the legal shooting hours from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset.
Today’s sentencing is part of the ongoing prosecution of numerous defendants related to violations committed by Noble Outdoors and its owner, associates, and clients between 2015 and 2021. In total, 18 defendants have been sentenced and ordered to pay more than $75,000 in fines and restitution for state and federal violations related to the interstate transport of unlawfully taken wildlife, shooting deer from the road; taking deer and pronghorn without a valid permit, taking deer with a firearm during archery season; taking deer during night-time closed season hours; dumping carcasses in waters of the state; hunting without permission; and improperly checking or registering big game.
The operation was a joint investigation conducted by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Law Enforcement Division.