February 14, 2016

Local hunters facing multiple illegal hunting charges

By Greg Buckner
Staff Writer | reporter@ogemawherald.com

OGEMAW COUNTY — Three men from Prescott have been arraigned on multiple charges of illegally taking wildlife and a Standish man has been charged with a single count of cruelty to animals, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Jerome Thorson, 64, and his sons, Ole Thorson, 35, and Travis Thorson, 40, all of Prescott, were arraigned in Ogemaw County District Court Feb. 16 on multiple charges resulting from a 12-month undercover investigation involving both the Michigan DNR and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Todd Osier, 41, of Standish, was arraigned Feb. 23 in Ogemaw County District Court on a single count of cruelty to animals.

The investigation was conducted by the Michigan DNR's Special Investigations Unit and Colorado Parks and Wildlife Law Enforcement Unit.

"The investigation was initiated in 2010," said Det. Lt. Jason Haines of the Michigan DNR. "They initiated the investigation in Colorado, and then we received some information about the group, which prompted us to become involved as well."

According to the DNR, Jerome Thorson faces 23 separate counts on charges of importation of illegally taken game from another state; capturing whitetail deer from the wild; building and maintaining an illegal deer enclosure without a permit; illegal taking of otter, bobcat and mink; illegal trapping; possession of an illegal silencer; and animal cruelty to horses.

Ole Thorson has been charged with importing elk illegally taken in another state and possession of an illegally taken pine marten. Travis Thorson faces one count of cruelty to animals.

Each Michigan wildlife charge is a misdemeanor with a possibility of 90 days in jail. Fines can range from $100 to $1,000 on each charge. Several of the charges require mandatory hunting license revocation upon conviction.

The illegal possession of a silencer is a felony with the possibility of five years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500. The felony animal cruelty charges have fines up to $5,000 and the possibility of four years in prison.

In Colorado, the Thorsons, Osier and three accomplices face a total of 48 charges stemming from the illegal killing and possession of several trophy-class elk, black bear and bobcat over several years in the King Mountain area of Routt County.

In addition to his misdemeanor violations, Ole Thorson is charged with felony willful destruction of wildlife and forgery. Travis Thorson has already been arraigned in Colorado on multiple felony menacing charges related to his 2011 hunt.

"It seems like every so often, a case like this will pop up," Haines said. "But, this is not the first time we've encountered a situation like this one."

Colorado law allows for enhanced fines and jail time in instances where either trophy big game animals or multiple big game animals are taken.

If convicted, Ole Thorson faces more than a year in prison, more than $90,000 in fines and a lifetime suspension of his hunting and fishing privileges in Michigan, Colorado and 35 other states that participate in the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact.

Each of the other defendants faces in excess of $10,000 in fines and lengthy suspensions of their hunting and fishing privileges.


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