Two South Carolina law enforcement officers are in a mess of trouble -- and face $15,000 in fines and restitution -- for illegally hunting deer in Iowa. One lost his job. Here's the eye-catching news release today from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources:


     Two South Carolina law enforcement officers pleaded guilty to falsely claiming Iowa residency to obtain in-state hunting licenses.  Charges were filed against Kester "Kess" Holmes, 33, and Phillip Lee Morris, 34, both of Saluda, S.C., last fall.

Holmes pleaded guilty to four counts of making false claims to obtain resident Iowa deer licenses, and one count of making false claims to obtain an Iowa resident turkey license. Holmes was sentenced to pay maximum fines and court costs, as well as liquidated damages for illegally taken game, and make restitution to the Iowa DNR for the difference between resident and non-resident license fees.

In addition, Holmes was ordered by the court to return two sets of buck deer antlers to the Iowa DNR, and lost his hunting and fishing privileges in Iowa for five years. His fines, costs and restitution will exceed $9,000. Holmes is a deputy sheriff in Saluda County, S.C.

Morris pleaded guilty to four counts of hunting and possessing game without valid resident Iowa DNR licenses and was ordered to pay the maximum fines, court costs, as well as $4,000 in liquidated damages for illegally taken wild game, and $1,400 restitution to the Iowa DNR for the difference between resident and non-resident license fees. The court further ordered Morris to return two sets of buck deer antlers to the Iowa DNR, and suspended his hunting and fishing privileges in Iowa for five years.

Morris was also charged with falsifying information to obtain an Iowa driver's license, to which he also pleaded guilty and received a suspended jail sentence, and was ordered to pay court costs and fees. Morris, a state trooper, was dismissed from the South Carolina State Patrol.

Iowa conservation officer Dave Elledge received information on Morris and Holmes a few years ago, which began the investigation.  The two stayed in an old rural farm house they used as camp.

"Any time an investigation involves law enforcement personnel, extra care and caution must be taken, in all aspects of the case," Elledge said "Confidentiality is of utmost importance, due to the fact one is dealing with individuals who are savvy to investigative techniques.

Several officers from northeast Iowa, as well as other DNR personnel assisted in the cases. Iowa DNR officers also received cooperation in the cases from the Special Investigations Unit of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources Enforcement Bureau.

The cases were prosecuted by Nathan Lein, assistant county attorney for Fayette County, Iowa and Susan Krisko, of the Iowa Attorney General's Office.

 

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