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For Release: Thursday, January 9, 2020

DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

Recent ECO Actions for December

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) enforce the 71 Chapters of NY Environmental Conservation Law (ECL), protecting fish and wildlife and preserving environmental quality across New York.

In 2018, the 288 ECOs across the state responded to 21,668 calls and worked on cases that resulted in 20,665 tickets or arrests for crimes ranging from deer poaching to solid waste dumping, illegal mining, the black market pet trade, and excessive emissions violations.

If you witness an environmental crime or believe a violation of environmental law occurred, please call the DEC Division of Law Enforcement hotline at 1-844-DEC-ECOS (1-844-332-3267).

"From Montauk Point to Mount Marcy, from Brooklyn to Buffalo, the ECOs patrolling our state are the first line of defense in protecting New York's environment and our natural resources, ensuring that they exist for future generations of New Yorkers," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. "They work long and arduous hours, both deep in our remote wildernesses and in the tight confines of our urban landscapes. Although they don't receive much public fanfare, the work of our ECOs is critical to achieving DEC's mission to protect and enhance our environment."

Deer Taken Over Bait - Ulster County
On Dec. 10, Robert Nelson of Esopus paid $605 in fines and surcharges to the Town of Esopus Court related to the illegal taking of a deer and using bait during his hunt. ECO Jeannette Bastedo received a tip on Nov. 6, that an individual took a deer the prior day in an area known to be baited in past hunting seasons. ECO Bastedo responded to the area and located a pile of feed approximately 15 yards from a tree stand, as well as a blood trail that started less than four feet from the bait pile. The ECO followed the blood trail, found a pair of gloves left in the woods, and collected the gloves for DNA purposes. Armed with this evidence, ECO Bastedo and ECO Lucas Palmateer interviewed Mr. Nelson about his hunt on Nov. 5. At first, the subject told the officers that he didn't know the bait was there until he was dragging the deer out. Eventually, he admitted he had placed the bait in the area approximately one week before his hunt in order to attract deer. Nelson was charged with the misdemeanor of illegally taking a deer and a violation of hunting with the aid of bait. After reaching a civil compromise, he was ordered to pay fines. The deer was seized and donated.

Illegal Hunting in the Big City - Richmond County
On Dec. 12, ECO Michael Wozniak responded to a complaint of a deer running through a wooded park in Staten Island with an orange arrow sticking out of its neck. ECO Wozniak picked up a blood trail and began tracking the injured deer. Due to inclement weather, the officer discontinued the search. The ECO later spotted an individual acting suspiciously near where the injured deer was last seen. After questioning, the individual provided ECO Wozniak with a home address, but the wrong identification. ECO Wozniak, with assistance from ECO Ryan Grogan, went to the address and continued questioning the man, who was later identified as John Anderson of Staten Island. In a written statement, Anderson confessed to shooting the deer while target shooting with his recurve bow. The ECOs seized both the bow and additional arrows from the home for evidence. Anderson was issued a notice of violation for hunting big game without a hunting license and for taking antlerless deer in a closed area without a permit. The subject paid a $1,000 penalty, with an additional $1,000 suspended penalty in the event he does not violate any further state Environmental Conservation Laws in a two-year period.

ECO poses for a photo with the bow and arrows that were seized
ECO Michael Wozniak with seized hunting implements

Pennsylvania Man Burns Demolished Buildings - Ulster County
On Dec. 14, ECO Jeannette Bastedo responded to a complaint of an illegal open burn in the town of Hurley. Upon arrival, the ECO met with the Hurley Fire Chief and New York State Police. Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp., also responded because the fire was near electric lines and the utility needed to cut power to the property. The joint investigation determined that someone intentionally set fire to portions of a demolished building on the property to dispose of the building. Further investigation revealed that other buildings on the property were also being demolished and possibly burned. Pennsylvania resident Kenneth Coulter was charged with prohibited open burn of non-exempt materials and illegal disposal of solid waste. Coulter was immediately arraigned in the Town of Hurley Court and offered a plea deal. He pleaded guilty to two lower violations of the state Environmental Conservation Law and was fined $1,600.

Large pile of charred building debris
Pile of burned debris consisting of demolished building materials

Shop with a Cop - Dutchess County
On Dec.14, ECO Chloe Swansen joined other state and local police agencies in the "Shop with a Cop" Christmas event hosted by radio station WRRV at the Poughkeepsie Galleria in Dutchess County. During the event, participating children are paired with an officer and given a gift card to spend at any store in the Galleria. The children were nominated anonymously through the radio station. ECO Swansen was paired with a young boy named Calvin who loves being outdoors. Calvin chose a camping tent, a nerf gun almost as long as he is tall, and a dinosaur mask that roars when the mouth opens. The children also got a surprise visit from Santa Claus. All gift cards were funded through donations and fundraisers.

Dumping Caught on Camera - Queens County
After receiving multiple complaints of solid waste dumped in the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Queens County, ECO Jeffrey Johnston and Environmental Conservation Investigator Sara Komonchak set up a DEC Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigation (BECI) trail camera near the dump sites. After a few days, ECOs observed a large pile of garbage bags in the vicinity of the trail cam. After reviewing the pictures, a white pickup truck without a visible license plate was pictured along with a suspect dumping the waste. ECO Johnston went through the trash pile for further evidence and discovered the same address on multiple pieces of trash. Further investigation revealed that a company was hired to remove trash after a home eviction. When questioned, the trash removal company produced a forged receipt claiming the waste was dumped at a licensed solid waste management facility. After interviewing the suspect, Kennard Codrington of Jamaica, Queens County, and presenting him with the original receipt and multiple photographs of him discarding the waste, he admitted to illegally disposing of the solid waste in the refuge. Codrington was issued a New York City summons for unlawful disposal of solid waste returnable to Queens County Criminal Court. He appeared on Dec. 17, was found guilty, and paid an $875 fine.

Large pile of discarded garbage and pallets at the gate of a wildlife refuge
Illegal dumping at the Jamaica Wildlife Refuge

Joint Detail with New Jersey - Marine District
On Dec. 28, DEC Marine Enforcement Unit officers Waldemar Auguscinski and Paul Pansini, along with Richmond County ECOs Max Woyton and Shane Currey, worked an overnight commercial fishing detail in New York Harbor. Patrolling with New Jersey Conservation Officers, the joint detail boarded several commercial fishing vessels. The New Jersey officers issued two tickets to a commercial dredger for failure to have a valid dredging permit and dredging at night, which is illegal in New Jersey waters.

Photo of New York and New Jersey ECOs on a fishing charter patrolling the waters
Joint marine detail with New York and New Jersey Conservation Officers

Eagle Rescue - Otsego County
On Dec. 31, ECOs Timothy Card and Dustin Osborne rescued a bald eagle from the shore of Schenevus Creek in Schenevus, Otsego County. Officers transported the eagle, which was unable to fly, to a wildlife rehabilitator in Greene County.

Two ECOs pose for a photo holding an injured bald eagle
ECOs Card and Osborne rescue an injured bald eagle

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