The director of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks describes it as, "one of the most disturbing poaching cases in recent history.”

It would be hard to dispute Director Hank Worsech's assessment. The number of people involved and the amount of Montana wildlife carnage made this a lengthy case to sort through. But after over two and a half years, a poaching investigation in northeast Montana has ended with final sentences being handed down in Garfield County.

Montana FWP reports that the investigation centered on a hunting party led by Richard LeBlanc, of Rhode Island. Repeat offenses seemed to be standard operating procedure, as 31 citations were issued for continued poaching activities in both Garfield and McCone counties.

This activity went on from from 2005 to 2011, with the aforementioned citations issued to Mr. LeBlanc and other members of his hunting parties. But it was additional information received in 2014 that started the most recent investigations.

The poachers' primary focus was the unlawful hunting of mule deer bucks in Hunting District 652. They can only be hunted with special permits obtained through Montana's drawing system.

Looking at states listed as home, Mr. LeBlanc and fellow ringleaders cast wide nets. Both LeBlanc and  Marc Federico, of Rhode Island, Stephen Schenck, of Massachusetts, and William Mathews, of Florida, were jointly and individually ordered to pay $50,000 in restitution and received six-month suspended jail sentences.

LeBlanc’s hunting, fishing and trapping privileges were suspended for a period of 10 years. Federico's, Schenck's and Mathews’ privileges were suspended for two to eight years. Their names are now part of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact.

And yes, reading between the lines does suggest all defendants can eventually return to Montana.

Another 20 defendants were given lesser fines totaling around $22,000, and many of them received hunting privilege losses of 24 months.

While it is hard to imagine there weren't many more, evidence shows at least 48 unlawfully taken game animals were taken. The dozen charges compiled against the defendants include: failing to wear hunter orange, shooting from the roadway, loan and transfer of hunting licenses, taking an over-limit of game animals, waste of game, possession of unlawfully killed deer and antelope, hunting during a closed season, hunting without a valid license, hunting without a valid permit, failure to tag, felony possession of wildlife and conspiracy to commit an offense.

Our congratulations to all law enforcement personnel who were so dedicated in solving this case.

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