The owner and operator of a retail shop in Ventura County that sold California Fish and Wildlife hunting tags has pleaded guilty to federal charges in connection with a large-scale poaching ring.
Juventino Reyes Guerrero, 44, the operator of a Fish and Wildlife licensing desk located within Lizette’s Market in Piru, pleaded guilty to six felonies, including two counts of conspiracy and four counts of filing a false or forged document.
Guerrero played a key role in the alleged poaching ring, selling and reprinting illicit hunting tags to a group of hunters known as the “E-Bike Crew.”
From June 2019 to October 2021, six men allegedly falsified and reprinted hunting tags to allow them to skirt California hunting regulations and harvest more animals than legally allowed. The bulk of the illegal tags were sold at Lizette’s Market.
During that time period, members of the E-Bike Crew would purchase a tag at Guerrero’s store, Guerrero would then re-print the tags, blaming it on poor quality. In reality, he gave the men involved additional tags and received kickbacks for doing so.
Charging documents indicate Guerrero was printing and reprinting the tags under his stepdaughter’s name. When contacted, the stepdaughter told investigators she had no idea about the operation.
“The defendant abused the licensing systems and helped to orchestrate illegal killings of local wildlife,” said Erik Nasarenko, Ventura County District Attorney. “His actions endangered our environment, and as a consequence of his guilty plea, he will have a lifetime ban from issuing hunting tags and licenses.”
Each reprinted ticket is tracked through the state’s Automated License Data System. During the time that the alleged crimes took place, no licensed dealer in the state of California had more reprinted tickets than Lizette’s Market, authorities said. In total, every single reprinted ticket at Lizette’s Market could be traced back to the poaching crew.
Fish and Wildlife officials allege that the group was responsible for an undetermined number of illegal kills over the years and either simply didn’t report them or used fraudulent tags in an attempt to cover their tracks.
Throughout the duration that the alleged poaching crew was in operation, Fish and Wildlife were able to tie the group to dozens of deer that were taken illegally, as well as several black bears and at least one protected mountain lion, charging documents allege.
“This guilty plea is a testament to the intensive and thorough investigation on the part of our wildlife officers in combination with support from the Ventura District Attorney’s Office investigators and prosecutors,” said David Bess, Chief of the Law Enforcement Division and Deputy Director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
For his role in the plot, Guerrero is expected to face 180 days in the Ventura County Jail and a lifetime ban from operating state computers. The ban effectively disqualifies him from ever operating another Fish and Wildlife ticketing desk.
The six hunters also charged as part of the plot, identified as Martin M. Bravo, Martin Bravo Sr., Jaime Mendoza Avila, Walfre Lopez y Lopez, Gilberto Lopez Hernandez and Cristian Lopez Perez, are due in court on April 6.