GULFPORT -- A federal grand jury has indicted a Louisiana business and three associates on charges alleging they conspired to import white-tailed deer from other states into wildlife enclosures in Pearl River and Lamar counties for the breeding and killing of trophy bucks.
Omni Pinnacle LLC, Brian R. Reine, Ronald W. Reine and Bruce A. Swilley Jr. are set for trial March 17 in U.S. District Court in Gulfport. They were arraigned Wednesday and were released on unsecured bonds of $25,000 each.
State and federal laws prohibit bringing white-tailed deer into Mississippi to protect the state's population from chronic wasting disease and bovine tuberculosis.
The company and the men are accused of violating the federal Lacey Act, which mirrors a state law aimed at preventing infectious diseases among white-tailed deer.
Omni Pinnacle is a disaster debris-management company based in Pearl River, La. Brian Reine, 44, is its chief executive officer and director of operations, according to its website. Ronald Reine, 67, is a consultant and assistant project manager. Swilley, 27, is not listed as an employee on the website.
The three men are accused of conspiring to smuggle deer onto wildlife enclosures managed by the Reines in Mississippi from January 2011 through December 2012. Deer placed at the wildlife enclosures also were used for deer hunts for business development and public relations for Omni Pinnacle, the indictment says.
The government alleges the men imported deer from Kentucky, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Louisiana to Hunter's Bluff, also known as Oak Investments LLC, a wildlife enclosure under Ronald Reine's control in Pearl River County and Half Moon Ranch, operated in Lamar County by Brian Reine.
Swilley went to the different states to handle the shipments, the indictment said.
Swilley and Brian Reine also are accused of making false statements to the sellers or on certificates of veterinary inspection by claiming the deer were being taken to Louisiana, not Mississippi.
"The importation of white-tailed deer into Mississippi is a growing problem with the potential for a devastating impact on our native deer herd," U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Davis said in a press release.
Chronic wasting disease spreads easily among mammals and can decimate native herds. It had been found in 18 states as of November, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some states have killed tens of thousands of deer to get rid of the disease.
Bovine tuberculosis is a contagious bacterial disease that can spread to other animals and humans.
The CDC recommends not eating diseased deer or undercooked deer meat.
The 13-count indictment includes a forfeiture notice that the government plans to seize all deer brought into Mississippi, a 2009 Ford truck and a breeding trailer.
The indictment does not identify the number of deer.
If convicted, the company faces a maximum fine of $500,000. The men each face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count.