Michael C. Ormsby, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced this week that Tom D. White, age 37, and his wife, Erin J. White, age 37, of Twisp, Wash., entered guilty pleas pursuant to plea agreements with the United States to criminal charges involving illegal conduct relating to endangered wolves.
Tom D. White entered pleas of guilty to Counts 2 and 3 of an indictment filed on June 7, 2011, charging him with killing two endangered gray wolves. The wolves were killed in May and December of 2008.
Erin J. White entered pleas of guilty to an Information Superseding the Indictment, charging her with conspiracy to export an endangered species, and with unlawful export of an endangered species.
The Whites each face maximum penalties of up to one year in prison for each offense. The plea agreements anticipate that the United States and Tom D. White and Erin J. White will jointly recommend that they each serve a period of three years of probation, said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in a press release.
Tom D. White has agreed to pay criminal fines and restitution totaling $30,000 and to forfeit the firearm used to kill the wolf in December of 2008. Erin J. White has agreed to pay a criminal find totaling $5,000. A sentencing hearing has been set for July 11, 2012
This case arose in 2008 from a report of a suspicious package that had been left with a private shipping company in Omak, Washington. The package was addressed to a resident of Alberta, Canada. An Omak police officer responded to the report and observed that the package appeared to be leaking blood. The package had been shipped by a woman who identified herself as "Alison," and provided a non-working telephone number for a contact number. She also falsely labeled the shipment as containing a rug. When the shipper and police officer opened the box, they observed that it contained a fresh wolf hide. Wolves are protected as endangered species in the Twisp area.
Through investigation, agents identified Erin J. White as "Alison." During a subsequent search of Erin and Tom D. White’s residence, Tom D. White admitted to killing the wolf and Erin J. White admitted to attempting to ship it to Canada. A further search of computer equipment and emails revealed several photographs, dated May 13, 2008, showing Tom D. White holding up a second dead wolf. The wolf can be distinguished from the wolf that Tom D. White admitted killing in December of 2008 from injuries that were visible on one of its front paws.
Michael C. Ormsby stated: "Criminal wildlife violations are serious Federal crimes that will be investigated and prosecuted vigorously in the Eastern District of Washington."
The case was investigated by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the Enforcement Division of the Washington State Department of Fish Wildlife, the Washington State Department of Agriculture, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, Alberta (Canada) Fish and Wildlife Division, and the Omak Police Department. The case is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Timothy J. Ohms.