Two hosts of the Sportsman Channel hunting show "Syndicate Hunting" and eight other people have been charged following a poaching investigation in Noatak National Preserve in Northwest Alaska, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Anchorage.
Two production companies -- The Outdoor Syndicate LLC and editing studio Zap Lab Ltd., both based in Reno, Nevada -- and Outdoor Syndicate owner Michael Dianda were cited with filming and airing footage without obtaining a permit, prosecutors said.
The charges allege dozens of big game animals, including grizzly bears, moose, caribou and Dall sheep were illegally hunted and killed, and some of the illegal kills ended up on the cable television show.
U.S. Attorney for Alaska Karen Loeffler said the charges are the result of a four-year investigation.
"Illegal big game poaching causes a lot of damage," Loeffler said during a Monday press conference, adding such crimes hurt the preservation of one of the state's natural resources. The breadth of the investigation, and a lack of resources for agencies operating in rural Alaska -- like the National Park Service and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game -- resulted in years of evidence-gathering, she said.
"The gathering of evidence for the case didn't just take place in Alaska. It was a lot of ground to cover," added Chris Smith, the Park Service special agent in charge.
The charging information against Clark Dixon, a personality on the Sportsman Channel show, was filed late Monday morning. The Mississippi man's online profile for the show indicates he travels to the Arctic every September and stays with his father for hunting season.
Charged in separate cases are are Clark W. Dixon, 41, of Hazelhurst, Mississippi; Charles W. Dixon, 70, of Brookhaven, Mississippi; Randolph Goza, 48, of Wasilla; Terry Goza, 71, of Hazelhurst, Mississippi; Clarence Michael Osborne, 53, of Madison, Mississippi.; Shannon Dale Hooks, 54, of Mendenhall, Mississippi; Lance David Walker, 37, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Fulton Josef Wold, 41, of Nashville, Tennessee, and Robert Scott Viner, 40, of Ridgeland, Mississippi.
The show follows four avid hunters, including Dixon, who make up a core group of hosts and "bring their hunting heritage and lifestyle to the screen and to their fans," according to a description on Sportsman Channel's website. New episodes aired June through December 2014, it says.
Prosecutors said Clark Dixon was instrumental to the alleged crimes, as he ran an illegal camp in the preserve. He has never been an Alaska resident, but he aided hunters lacking the correct tags in the taking of game without a guiding license, they said. The charged hunts allegedly occurred the same day the clients landed.
"I think most Alaskans wouldn't call that hunting," Loeffler remarked.
"All of Clark W. Dixon's Alaska hunts, including, but not limited to those featured on 'The Syndicate' from 2011 to the present, were conducted illegally," according to the charges. "Each Alaska hunt, depicted on 'The Syndicate,' falsely portrayed, due to selective editing or other means, the apparently legal take of Alaska big game when in truth in fact all of the Alaska big game animals documented on 'The Syndicate' were illegally killed."
The charges allege that around Sept. 13, 2010, Clark Dixon illegally killed a brown bear. The second charge against Dixon accuses him of illegally transporting game from 2009 to the present.
Randolph Goza and Charles Dixon, Clark's father, assisted in the operation, Loeffler said. The government is seeking the forfeiture of Clark Dixon's aircraft, a Stol Quest SQ-4, if he's convicted.
Lance Walker is another host on the cable show, Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Skrocki confirmed.
Walker faces two misdemeanor charges for violating the Lacey Act, a conservation law prohibiting the sale of illegally taken wildlife.
Walker is alleged to have killed a brown bear around Sept. 20, 2011, without being accompanied by a registered big-game guide in Noatak's Kelly River drainage, according to the charges. He killed and then transported the bear without having two required permits, the charges say.
Prosecutors allege Walker also allowed Clark Dixon, who was fraudulently claiming to be an Alaska resident, to make a false report to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to cover up his illegal kill, according to the charges.
The second misdemeanor charged against Walker alleges he killed and transported a wolf that same month, also in the Kelly River drainage, with the help of an unregistered guide.
The Park Service issued two citations to the production companies for filming on the preserve. Loeffler said the footage was edited to make the hunts appear legal.
Attempts to contact the Sportsman Channel were unsuccessful Monday.
Randall and Terry Goza, Michael Osborne, Shannon Hooks and Fulton Wold are separately charged in misdemeanor cases. With the exception of Hooks, who hunted near Beluga, the defendants hunted out of the illegal campsite, taking bear, moose, caribou and Dall sheep, prosecutors said.
Viner was charged with and pleaded guilty to transporting an unlawfully taken brown bear. He has paid a $3,250 fine, prosecutors said.
Osborne, charged with illegally taking a brown bear the same day he arrived in Noatak by plane and killing a bull moose without the proper locking tag, has entered into a plea agreement that recommends a $65,000 fine and seven years of probation, which includes a no-hunting condition. Osborne agreed restitution of $19,500 for both animals should be paid to the preserve.
Noatak National Preserve includes 6.8 million acres of protected land in Northwestern Alaska. State- and federal-regulated hunting is permitted in the preserve.
Correction: The above article previously referred to the Sportsman Channel show as "The Syndicate." A spokesperson for the show confirmed Tuesday that the show's correct name is "Syndicate Hunting."