Jury convicts lodge owner of violations

An Anchorage District Court jury last week found a Wasilla lodge owner guilty of 23 misdemeanor wildlife and fishing violations.

Kurt Lepping, 55, will be sentenced in January for the various charges, which included illegally baiting bears for clients, guiding sportfishing expeditions without a license, and taking clients fishing for red salmon on a lake closed for that species, according to the Alaska Wildlife Troopers.

Lepping, who owns Alaska Lakeside Lodge, had a license to transport hunting clients in March 2008 but he broke the law before and after that, according to troopers.

The investigation, with the help of federal Fish and Wildlife Service employees, started in 2008 when wildlife trooper Sgt. Mark Agnew landed his plane near a baiting site Lepping had set up in the Beluga River area, Sgt. Katrina Malm said.

Lepping provided commercial services exceeding his scope as a transporter and he'd broken laws that any hunter -- guide or not -- must follow, including flying clients the same day they hunted, troopers said.

Troopers served search warrants at Lepping's residence in Wasilla, as well as residences in Washington state and Utah.

"A lot of people who get the proper licenses, they spend a lot of time and money in order to obtain those licenses," Malm said.

Lepping refused to talk to investigators from the very beginning, Malm said.

Anchorage Daily News / adn.com