Nathan Simms, 31, of Grand Junction, will face sentencing in June for his role in what veteran wildlife officers called one of the most disturbing cases they had ever seen.
In the plea agreement, Simms accepted a recommendation that he serve a six-month prison sentence for his involvement in the crimes. He also faces a possible lifetime suspension of his hunting and fishing privileges, pending an appearance before a Colorado Parks and Wildlife Hearings officer.
“We want to make it clear to anyone that chooses to ignore our laws that we take wildlife violations very seriously and our officers will do what it takes to bring them to justice,” said manager Ron Velarde, of the CPW Northwest region.
Christopher Loncarich, of Mack, was the owner of the now defunct outfitting business that employed Simms and his wife, Caitlin Simms – daughter of Loncarich – her sister Andie Loncarich of Crawford, Nicholaus Rodgers of Medford, Oregon and Marvin Ellis of Grand Junction.
The conspirators schemed to capture and maim lions and bobcats in western Colorado and eastern Utah, making it easy for their customers to kill them. The investigation revealed that most of the clients, many that came from out-of-state and paid up to $7,500 for the opportunity, were unaware of their illegal methods.
Officials apprehended the group after a lengthy investigation beginning in 2007 and continuing through 2010, involving law enforcement officials from Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
After pleading guilty to one count of conspiring to violate the Lacey Act, Christopher Loncarich began serving a 27-month sentence in federal prison in 2014, where he remains. The same year, Caitlin Simms pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor Lacey Act violations, receiving one-year of probation, a $1,000 fine and sixty hours of community service, thirty of which included time with Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Hunter Education program. Andie Loncarich’s sentence for her guilty plea to a misdemeanor Lacey Act violation included one-year of probation, a $500 fine and thirty-six hours of community service, half of which included service to the Hunter Education program.
Rodgers pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to violate Lacey Act in 2014. His sentence included 36 months of probation, six months of home confinement, 50 hours of community service and $5,000 in fines.
In 2013, Ellis pleaded guilty to a felony charge of conspiring to violate the Lacey Act, receiving three years of probation, six months of home detention and ordered to pay a $3,100 fine.
Because they were used in the commission of Lacey Act violations, officials seized Loncarich’s 2008 Ford truck and Ellis’ 1995 Dodge truck.
Loncarich and Rodgers each received a lifetime suspension of their hunting and fishing privileges. Caitlin Simms received a 20-year suspension. Andie Loncarich and Ellis each received a 15-year suspension.
Three of Loncarich’s clients paid a total of $13,100 in fines.