Eagle Trafficker Sent to Prison for Related Gun Charges

Eagle Trafficker Sent to Prison for Related Gun Charges
Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm / Unsplash

BILLINGS — A Hardin felon who illegally possessed firearms and used them to kill eagles and sell their parts for profit was sentenced Jan. 24 to three years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said in a press release.

Harvey Alvin Hugs, 60, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Judge Susan P. Watters' court in September 2023 to felon in possession of firearms.

Hugs’ sentence is to run concurrently to a three-year prison sentence he received in U.S. District Court in South Dakota for conviction of violating the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act because his crimes there were deemed as relevant conduct to his firearms offense.  

The government alleged in court documents that Hugs was prohibited from possessing firearms because he was convicted in 2002 of felony involuntary manslaughter in U.S. District Court in Montana and was sentenced in 2014 for two separate state felony convictions in Big Horn County. Hugs illegally possessed firearms and used them to kill eagles and sell their parts for profit. Hugs engaged in this conduct for more than a year and sold multiple eagle parts to the same informant. When law enforcement executed a search warrant of Hugs’ property in March 2021, officers recovered ammunition in his home; a loaded rifle, spent shells, ammunition and eagle parts in his white Chevrolet Silverado; and another rifle, two boxes of ammunition, spent shells and eagle feathers in his red Chevrolet Silverado. The investigation recovered body parts from 21 different eagles.

Hugs was charged and convicted in a jury trial in U.S. District Court in South Dakota on three counts of violating the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act for the sale and shipment of eagle parts to the informant. Hugs was sentenced to one year in prison on each count, to run consecutively, and ordered to pay $70,000 restitution. Hugs has appealed the restitution.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Karla E. Painter prosecuted the case. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives conducted the investigation.

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