Poaching never pays off. The leader of a widespread poaching operation found that out the hard way and is going to prison for the next four years.
Robert Mandon Freeworth received his sentencing on Monday by Wood County Common Pleas Judge Reeve Kelsey. The 37 year-olds illegal activity included shooting deer a night, shooting them out out of season, improperly handling a firearm in a motor vehicle and shooting deer out of season, as well as other wildlife violations.
“Those who are avid hunters follow the rules as set out by ODNR,” former assistant Wood County prosecutor Gwen Howe-Gebers said. “Mr. Freeworth stretched those rules, violated those rules all to benefit himself.”
Freeworth was ordered to pay $5,513.03 in restitution for deer he killed after pleading guilty in December. He also has to forfeit 51 items that were seized in March, 2016, during a raid. The items include two rifles, a muzzleloader, a sport utility vehicle and various deer parts.
“There has to be some punishment to say to the hunters, these rules are there for a reason, and it’s so that everyone can enjoy the sport of hunting,” Howe-Gevers continued. “It’s people like Mr. Freeworth who then ruin it for everyone else.”
Freeworth’s arrest comes as a result of Operation North Coast, which was a wide-spread operation across northern Ohio that resulted in charges being filed against more than 40 people in 10 Ohio counties.
“We received numerous complaints on Mr. Freeworth, with tips from different avenues, and we were able to put an investigation in place and document many violations,” he said. “It was very clear this was an enterprise involving a number of people and the widespread illegal taking of deer and the selling of venison.”