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Cactus Poachers Sentenced

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avatar Cactus Poachers Sentenced
January 12, 2010 04:17AM
Saguaro National Park (AZ)
Cactus Poachers Sentenced

Two men have been found guilty of cactus poaching in the park in 2007 and have been sentenced in federal court. A federal judge in Tucson sentenced Joseph Tillman, 50, to eight months in federal prison, and his co-defendant, Gregory James McKee, 42, to six months of home confinement and 100 hours of community service. Upon release, both will be placed on supervised probation for a term of 36 months. The two men previously pled guilty to violations of the Lacey Act, which prohibits trafficking in plants and animals collected in violation of any law, treaty, or regulation of the United States, or in violation of any Indian tribal law. Saguaros are also protected under Arizona's native plants law. Saguaros are vulnerable to loss or damage from theft, vandalism, development, off-road vehicles and air pollution because of their slow reproduction and rate of growth, which makes nursery propagation difficult. On January 12, 2007, McKee and Tillman removed two saguaro cacti from within the park’s boundaries. On that day, rangers discovered several saguaros had been dug up and cached for later transport. A total of 17 mature saguaros had been dug up, two from within the park and 15 from adjacent private and public lands. The saguaros ranged from five to eight feet in height. As a result of the investigation, McKee and Tillman were identified as having removed the saguaros from the park and transporting them in a truck owned by McKee. “This activity will not be taken lightly,” said Dennis Burke, U.S. attorney for the District of Arizona. “This is one of the longest sentences ever for cactus rustling in this district.” The case came to a successful conclusion due to outstanding investigative work and case management, along with a supportive U.S. Attorney’s Office. Todd Austin (now at Lake Mead) was the original investigating ranger, and district ranger Robert E. Stinson was the case agent.
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