Concluding in March 2016, a long-term investigation known as Operation North Coast targeted poachers and other wildlife law violators throughout four northwest Ohio counties.
More than 45 state wildlife officers and investigators vigorously executed search warrants and investigated dozens of suspects, resulting in 55 charges for violations spread across 22 suspects in total. The program was initiated after multiple complaints from landowners, sportsmen and women as well as the general public regarding illegal taking and sales of wildlife.
Of the 55 violations, 38 of the charges, which included seven felonies, led to guilty convictions, resulting in nearly $22,000 worth of restitution and court costs collected during the investigation.
One conviction seemed to stand above the rest, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Originally placed under arrest in August 2016, Robert Mandon Freeworth was reprimanded as the main suspect and subsequently convicted of engaging in selling venison, tampering with records, unlawful possession of wildlife as well as improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle.
Wood County Judge Reeve Kelsey handed Freeworth his sentencing earlier this month, resulting in a four-year prison term, more than $5,500 worth of restitution and the loss of his hunting, fishing and trapping privileges in the state of Ohio for 18 years.
Additionally, Freeworth was ordered to forfeit more than 50 pieces of evidence including firearms, cash, antlers, venison and a motor vehicle.
Freeworth’s father, Robert V. Freeworth, was also charged with two counts of aiding a wildlife offender, receiving more than $1,300 in fines and court costs, also losing his hunting, fishing and trapping privileges for three years.