HELENA - A Bigfork hunting guide and a Cascade outfitter face sentencing Oct. 8 after pleading guilty to federal charges involving a scheme to sell their services to out-of-state hunters.
John Kevin Moore of Bigfork admitted to mail fraud by portraying himself as a licensed outfitter in sending materials to clients. Dennis LeVeque of Cascade pleaded guilty to violating a federal law that prohibits exporting, transporting or selling game taken illegally.
Moore faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, while LeVeque could be sentenced to as much as one year in prison and fined $10,000.
The guilty pleas came shortly before two men were scheduled to stand trial again May 5 on mail fraud charges.
The trial date was nearly 14 months after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Moore's conviction for poaching and mail fraud and LeVeque's mail fraud conviction. The court ordered a new trial on the mail fraud charges.
The charges were related to a 1998 hunting trip by four out-of-state men recruited by Moore, a licensed guide. Moore paid LeVeque, a licensed outfitter, $10,000 for permission to take the hunters onto the Meagher County ranch belonging to Bill Galt, with whom LeVeque had a lease agreement.
According to court documents, Moore provided outfitting services to the customers and never told them that LeVeque actually was the outfitter.
One of Moore's clients, an investment counselor from Texas named R.E. McMaster, was unable to obtain an out-of-state hunting license through the state's lottery system. However, Moore arranged for him to get a license by claiming to be an outfitted client of LeVeque.
Prosecutors had said Moore and LeVeque committed mail fraud by collecting the hunting and outfitting fees under false pretenses and using the mailed documents to do it.
The interstate shipment of poached game occurred after McMaster illegally shot a bull elk on GaltÃ s land using the license obtained as LeVeque's supposed client. No one in the hunting camp, including Moore, told McMaster the kill was illegal, prosecutors said.
McMaster took the elk hide for tanning to a Kalispell taxidermist, who mailed it to McMaster in Texas.
Authorities had argued that LeVeque should have known the elk was killed illegally.