01/17/05 — Undercover probe prompted wildlife charges

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Undercover probe prompted wildlife charges

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on January 17, 2005 1:59 PM

Wayne County's wildlife officer said an undercover wildlife officer bought 192 pounds of deer meat from Joe Cunningham of Dogwood Trail.

Cunningham was charged Friday with six game law violations. Wildlife officers seized 138 pounds of deer meat they found at his home. They seized all of his meat- grinding and sausage-making equipment, hiss 2004 Dodge pickup truck and two guns that were inside the truck.

Wayne County Wildlife Officer Joey Deal said he had received an anonymous call about Cunningham selling deer meat, and reports had also come from headquarters in Raleigh. An undercover wildlife officer came to the county and bought 50 pounds of link-style deer sausage, Deal said. The officer had not brought any deer meat with him. Cunningham had told the News-Argus on Saturday that he was just doing a fellow a favor by making sausage for him.

Deal said Cunningham told the officer he had plenty of deer meat to sell, and he didn't need for him to bring him any.

"They met down the road from his house," said Deal. "About six days later, we set up another buy."

The second time was Friday afternoon. Deal said the officer bought 142 pounds of sausage for $2.50 a pound.

Several wildlife officers from the patrol area, which includes Wayne, Johnston and Wake counties, then converged on Cunningham just inside Walnut Creek. He consented to a search, although the officers had a warrant.

"We were prepared," Deal said. "This was the biggest meat sale I've been involved in."

Cunningham was charged with possessing, transporting and selling white tail deer which had been processed for the purpose of sale. He was also charged with three license violations including failure to validate a white tail deer report card. Deal said he had used someone else's license number on the registration for cutting up deer. Cunningham was placed under $3,000 bond and scheduled for a first appearance on Feb. 8.

Deal said the wildlife officers are still investigating three people who might have been supplying meat to the operation.