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'Syndicate Hunting' host gets prison time for years of poaching

  • Author: Jerzy Shedlock
  • Updated: July 7, 2016
  • Published February 12, 2016

Clark Dixon, former host of the Sportsman Channel hunting show "Syndicate Hunting," was sentenced Thursday in Anchorage federal court to 16 months in prison for years of poaching in Noatak National Preserve in Northwest Alaska.

Prosecutors said in a prepared statement that Dixon was the leader of the multiyear poaching operation.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline sentenced Dixon to serve time for two felony violations of the Lacey Act, a conservation law that prohibits the sale of illegally taken game.

Dixon was ordered to pay a fine of $75,000 and forfeit 17 animals that were killed and turned into trophies while he falsely claimed Alaska residency, the statement says. With the exception of an additional two months jail time that could have been imposed, Dixon received the maximum penalties for the crime to which he pleaded guilty.

A STOL Quest SQ-4 aircraft was also forfeited as a result of the conviction. The plane, valued at $200,000, was integral to the transportation of killed animals, prosecutors said.

Dixon and four others who participated in the poaching pleaded guilty to federal violations in November. Prosecutors had indicted nine people two months earlier, and two production companies were cited for footage that aired on the TV show.

As part of his plea deal, Dixon admitted to breaking state and federal hunting laws: hunting and taking game the same day he flew to a remote camp, hunting big game without a state-licensed guide, hunting without the proper tags and permits, and unlawfully guiding nonresidents on hunts in Noatak preserve.

For example, Dixon helped Clarence Michael Osborne illegally take a grizzly in 2010. The men flew the same day they hunted and didn't have permits, prosecutors said. Then, Dixon falsified a hunt record, claiming his father, Charles Dixon, killed the bear, they said. He committed the crimes when he was falsely claiming to be an Alaska resident; he was actually a resident of Mississippi.

That is one of many hunts prosecutors say Dixon carried out from an illegal camp in the preserve. The original charges against him alleged illegal transportation of game since 2009. Some of those illegal hunts were featured on "Syndicate Hunting."

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The Sportsman Channel suspended the show on the heels of the federal charges. Channel spokesman Tom Caraccioli said "Syndicate" is not being aired and will not return.

The show's website is no longer functional. On Syndicate Hunting LLC's Facebook page, a post from late December says changes were being made and would be revealed in January. In response to a commenter's question, Syndicate said it was "returning in January under a new name." Caraccioli said he is not aware of the show returning in any form to the Sportsman Channel.

The government noted four other defendants from outside Alaska who have been sentenced. They received penalties of two to five years of probation, with the condition they not hunt during that time; fines and restitution as high as $65,000; and forfeiture of game trophies. The restitution will go to the Noatak preserve.

Wasilla resident Randolph Goza, 48, pleaded guilty to assisting in a same-day airborne hunt. During his Dec. 28 sentencing, he was told he couldn't hunt anywhere in the world for his five years of probation. He also was ordered to pay a $25,000 fine and $12,000 of restitution for an illegally taken Dall sheep.

Outdoor Syndicate LLC and Zap Lab Ltd., the two production companies, have paid fines for commercial filming in the preserve without permits, prosecutors said.

All nine defendants have been convicted. The fines imposed from their separate cases totaled $208,250; restitution to the preserve amounts to $62,500, prosecutors said.

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