California Fish and Wildlife officials have reportedly shut down a group of poachers who allegedly used forged hunting tags to illegally hunt dozens of big game animals for over three years. The group of men also utilized e-bikes during their poaching operation.
The suspects include six people who call themselves the “E-Bike Crew” and Juventino Reyes Guerrera, who worked at a Fish and Wildlife licensing desk. All seven suspects were charged with 21 counts of conspiracy, fraud, and other charges.
“California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW) investigated the ‘E-Bike Crew,’ discovering that they worked with Lizette’s Market in Piru to fraudulently reprint hunting licenses and tags,” Ventura County District Attorney Erik Nasarenko said in a statement. “The six-member wildlife trafficking organization is accused of conspiring with Lizette’s Market beginning in June 2019 through October 2021, allegedly producing the false and fake tags to hunt and take more deer, pigs, and bears than legally allowed by state law.”
According to reports, Guerrera illegally printed copies of hunting tags bought by the group of men. He blamed reprinting the tags due to the poor quality. The state’s Automated License Data System would track those reprints later. Reports indicate that the licensing terminal created more reprints than any other license distributor in the state.
A patrolling CDFW game warden in the Los Padres National Forest first saw the group. They appeared to be riding electric bicycles while hunting. Before, the agency had received dozens of complaints and tips from people concerned about the group taking animals from wildlife sanctuaries and other locations.
Later, the agency caught them on camera hunting an area for the endangered California Condor to nest.
Poaching group suspected of hunting condors, mountain lions, and other big game animals
In addition, a CDFW officer discovered that some of their hunting tags were only partially filled out, violating the agency’s regulations.
In Dec of 2021, officials used search warrants to help them confiscate mounted trophies, antlers, skulls, and game meat. They also found a mountain lion skull, which one claimed was a bobcat. Not only has mountain lion hunting been banned in the state since 1990, but they’re also protected in California.
While officials have yet to learn exactly how many illegal hunts the group was responsible for. However, they found that 64 tags were reprinted, and 120 tags were never even reported to the agency.
In addition, officials involved in the investigation also allege that the group illegally poached dozens of deer. They also say they hunted bears as well.
Six of the men—Guerrera, Martin Bravo Sr., Martin M. Bravo, Gilberto Lopez Hernandez, Jaime Mendoza Avila, and Cristian Lopez Perez—are currently in custody. However, the seventh man remains at large.