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Continued: Major fish-poaching scheme busted in northern Minnesota, authorities say

  • Article by: DOUG SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Last update: April 15, 2013 - 12:51 AM

The undercover investigation leading to the indictments began in 2009, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Minneapolis. Officers made several purchases of illegally taken fish, according to the indictments, and seized fish by using search warrants.

The indictments alleges violation of the federal Lacey Act, which typically concerns the illegal interstate transport of game and fish. The act can also be invoked when a tribal law is being broken, a source familiar with the case said.

The 10 indicted men face potential maximum penalties of five years in federal prison on each count.

Charged were: Larry W. Bellefy, 53, of Bagley; Thomas P. Sumner, 54, Larry Good, 58, and Brian W. Holthusen, 47, all of Red Lake; Michael D. Brown, 54, no known address; Michael J. Nei, 48, of Bemidji, Jerry A. Reyes, 51, of Cass Lake; and Marc L. Lyons, 61; Frederick W. Tibbetts, 61, and Alan D. Hemme, 55, all of Bena.

The indictments allege that the suspects knowingly engaged in conduct that involved the sale and purchase of fish. Authorities estimated the value of all the fish involved to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The first indictment alleges that between July 2009 and July 2011, Bellefy, Sumner and Holthusen took fish from Red Lake without approval of the Red Lake Fisheries Association. The indictment alleges that Sumner and Holthusen obtained the fish and then sold them to Bellefy, who resold them. He owns a bar in Bagley.

The second indictment alleges that between July 2010 and July 2011, Brown and Nei netted fish from Leech Lake for commercial purposes. It states that Brown caught the fish, then sold them to Nei.

The third indictment alleges that between July 2009 and July 2011, Reyes, Lyons, Tibbetts, and Hemme also took fish from several lakes on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation.

That indictment claims Ryes, Lyons and Tibbetts took the fish from the lakes and then sold them to Hemme, who owns a restaurant in Bena.

The fourth indictment alleges that between July 2009 and July 2011, Good took fish from Red Lake without approval of the Red Lake Fisheries Association.


Staff writer Dennis Anderson contributed to this report. Doug Smith • 612-673-7667


  • related content

  • Tainted catch: Walleyes netted on the Red Lake and Leech Lake reservations had been caught and sold illegally since 2009, according to court filings.

  • Walleye sting: A northern Minnesota undercover operation that took years resulted in indictments against 10 suspects, including a bar owner and restaurant owner who bought illegal fish.

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