(CN) - A Colorado hunting guide was sentenced to 27 months in prison after admitting that he wounded and caged mountain lions and bobcats to make it easier for his clients to kill them.
Christopher W. Loncarich, 55, a longtime outfitter in Mack, Colo., near the Utah-Colorado border, pleaded guilty in August to capturing, shooting and caging big cats during illegal hunts from 2007 to 2010.
Loncarich and his assistants would dupe clients that had paid $700 to $7,500 into killing an already injured and helpless animal, according to the Justice Department.
Loncarich also admitted that he took clients hunting in Utah without valid hunting licenses, falsified mandatory kill-site reports, and used radio collars to make the hunts easier for his high-paying clients.
He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act, a federal law that makes it illegal to transport or sell wildlife that has been killed illegally.
U.S. District Judge Christine M. Arguello sentenced Loncarich to 27 months in federal prison last week in Denver. Loncarich also must give up his guns and serve three years of supervised release.
Loncarich's illegal methods came to light after he guided an undercover U.S. Fish and Wildlife agent on a mountain lion hunt in February 2009. Lab analysis of a mountain lion killed by the agent during the hunt revealed that the cat had been "shot in the left rear leg prior to the time the agent killed the animal," Loncarich's plea agreement states.
The plea agreement also states that during a hunt in 2008, Loncarich and his assistant guides "placed a leg hold on the mountain lion's paw" and "shot the mountain lion in the rear right leg" to "ensure the lion would stay in the area," and that this became a regular practice over subsequent seasons.
In a pre-sentencing report , Loncarich blamed his behavior on an addiction to prescription drugs.
"When he committed the offenses before the court he was using prescribed and non-prescribed drugs such as Soma, Xanax, Ambien among others," the report states. "Had he been sober he would likely not have committed these offenses and he would not have put his family in the precarious position that he has."
Loncarich's wife, Melissa Loncarich, told the court that he had grown weary over the years of having to "coddle" his clients.
"He felt that they weren't as tough as they used to be, and he got tired of having to coddle them," she said, according to the pre-sentencing report. "He would get upset because they were too out of shape to hike and track animals, and they just wanted to shoot animals without having to hunt them."
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