|Who||What||Where||Last Known Address||Date|
|Michael Tony Roberts, 37||illegally acting as a registered hunting guide, guiding & hunting without a licence, same day airborne hunting, unlawful possession of game||
|Anchorage, AK||September 16, 1999|
|Type of Crime||Other Crimes||#/Type of animals involved|
|Misdemeanor||fugitive from justice, bailed on child support, driving on a suspended licence||2 grizzly bears, fish, bear cubs, 1 undersized bull moose|
Tony Roberts, 37, has been on the lam since Sept. 16 when he fled alone into dense brush at a hunting camp west of Talkeetna as a trooper helicopter was closing in at the end of an undercover sting.
Charges filed in Anchorage District Court last week accuse Roberts of 16 counts of misdemeanor hunting and other violations, including illegally acting as a registered guide, guiding without a license, hunting without a license, same-day airborne hunting and unlawful possession of game.
Authorities say Roberts, an Anchorage resident, baited grizzly bears and sold grizzly gall bladders -- both illegal activities -- and killed a sub-legal bull moose. He told undercover officers posing as hunters they could shoot sows and their cubs, said Lt. Franco D'Angelo, supervisor of the commercial crimes bureau of the troopers' Division of Fish and Wildlife Protection.
Troopers learned after the fact that Roberts caught a plane to Big Lake and called an Alaska friend that evening, D'Angelo said. ''He's pretty savvy in the way of avoiding law enforcement,'' he said.
Roberts consistently operates outside the law, D'Angelo said. He drives a car with a suspended driver's license and hunts in Alaska although his hunting privileges were revoked three years ago, D'Angelo added. And he flies a plane, and has taken passengers for hire, though he's never earned a pilot's license, he said. ''This is not by any means any old game violation case,'' he said.
Neither of Roberts' brothers was aware he did not have a pilot's license, although both have flown as passengers with him, they said. ''I always thought he did,'' said Rick Roberts of Woodstock, Va. Rick Roberts said he visited his brother in spring 1990, shortly after Tony Roberts moved to Alaska for the outdoors, and went on a bear-hunting and fishing trip with him.
Rick Roberts, 36, is a welding supervisor and a volunteer in the management of deer populations in his state. He said he would be appalled if the charges against his brother are true. ''I have a lot of respect for the outdoors,'' he said. ''My brother -- these crimes -- I love him, but I wouldn't want to be affiliated with someone with those hunting ethics.''
Tony Roberts has had ''his share of problems'' but never fell into big trouble before, Rick Roberts said. ''At times he just thinks everybody's against him. I don't fully understand that. That's why we're trying to let him know we're here for him. He needs to come in and face it, face what he's up against and quit running.''
Their brother, Chuck, 39, visited Tony early this month and flew around with him to go hunting but never did, he said. ''I would love to be able to talk to him,'' Chuck said. ''I just want to get this resolved. This thing is eating at me like battery acid.''
Tony, who is divorced and has an 8-year-old son who lived with him in Anchorage, placed a call to his uncle in Richmond, Va., soon after going underground, his mother said. ''He didn't call me,'' she said. ''Why, I don't know. I have had a heart attack and he might have known it might frighten me to death, which it did.''
Webb said she feared for her son being ''pushed over the edge'' with winter coming on. ''Tell Tony that we love him. We all love him -- his family loves him and we want to be there for him and we would want him to turn himself in, and his mother is coming up there to be with him,'' she said. ''We're not against him, and the state troopers are not against him either.''
Update 10/30/99: Fugitive hunting guide Michael ''Tony'' Roberts has been on the lam for six weeks, and authorities say the trail has gone cold.
Roberts, 37, ran away Sept. 16 from his hunting camp west of Talkeetna as a trooper helicopter was closing in at the end of an undercover sting. His last known whereabouts were at Big Lake on Sept. 20.
''It's pretty much just anybody's guess,'' said Lt. Franco D'Angelo, of the state Division of Fish and Wildlife Protection. ''He could have left the state. He could still be up in that area.''
Authorities say the Anchorage resident baited grizzly bears, sold bear gall bladders and killed an undersized bull moose -- all of which is illegal. He told undercover officers posing as hunting clients they could shoot sows and their cubs, they said. The 16 misdemeanor charges against him include running an illegal guiding operation, guiding without a license, hunting without a license, same-day airborne hunting and unlawful possession of game.
The troopers have put out wanted posters for him and the Fish and Wildlife Safeguard program recently doubled the reward to $2,000 for information leading to Roberts' arrest.
Roberts caught a plane to Big Lake Sept. 19 from an unsuspecting pilot and called a friend on Sept. 20, troopers say. The record of that collect call shows it was made from a Big Lake pay phone, D'Angelo said.
Several people have called to report they saw someone who looked like Roberts, D'Angelo said, but none of the tips panned out. ''In the last week we haven't received anything at all,'' D'Angelo said.
Roberts is an accomplished woodsman, so he could survive in the wilderness a long time, D'Angelo said. On the other hand, Roberts might be short on resources: Officers seized his bank account shortly after he went underground.
While Roberts remains on the loose, the case against him grows. D'Angelo said he's learned that the rifle Roberts had with him in the field -- the one officers say he used to shoot the sublegal moose and to shoot at a bear -- was stolen from a home in Fairbanks.
A $10,000 warrant has been issued for his arrest, and prosecutors have agreed to extradite him from any other state.
''If he gets stopped on a traffic stop and run through (the national criminal data base), they'll get a hit on the warrant,'' D'Angelo said.
Roberts placed a call to an uncle in Virginia last month, but Roberts' family has no idea where Roberts is now, said a brother. ''We don't really know nothing, really,'' said Rick Roberts, of Woodstock, Va.
Update 4/1/00: The charges against fugitive hunting guide Michael Tony Roberts continue to mount while he remains on the lam.
Roberts has now been charged with criminal nonsupport for falling more than $65,000 behind in his child support payments to his ex-wife, state investigators said. An Anchorage grand jury also charged him with giving his employer a fake Social Security number to evade child support enforcement, a felony.
The state also charged Lisa Ann Jones, 38, this week with helping Roberts avoid child support payments by depositing his money in her bank accounts. Investigators said Jones, of Anchorage, was Roberts' bookkeeper and answered telephone inquiries from potential guiding clients.
The state found out about the child support evasion when it investigated his guiding business, authorities said.
A judge ordered Roberts in 1994 to begin paying $1,000 a month to support his son, according to a document filed with the criminal charges. The Child Support Enforcement Division was only able to collect one payment from him: $257, withheld in 1995 from a paycheck he received from a car-repair shop, the document said.
He gave the fake Social Security number when he went to work for a body shop in Eagle River last year, the charges said.
Update 11/21/00: An outlaw hunting guide who eluded arrest for almost a year was sentenced to nine months in jail, $5,000 restitution, and a $1,000 fine.
Roberts, also lost his plane, a .338-caliber Winchester Magnum rifle, and a bunch of animal parts, including a dozen bear gallbladders investigators say were destined for the Korean black market.
Some people believe dried bear gallbladders enhance sexual performance, and an illegal trade flourishes across the Pacific Ocean despite laws against selling them. Worth from $200 to $400 each in Alaska, said Fish and Wildlife Protection Lt. Franco D'Angelo, ''they're worth more than cocaine'' in Korea.
Originally charged with 16 misdemeanors, Roberts pleaded no contest to one count each of guiding without a license, same-day airborne hunting, unlawful possession or transportation of game, and putting false information on game tags.
Roberts was brought into Judge Peter Ashman's courtroom in handcuffs and jailhouse blues. He also faces unrelated charges of failing to pay child support and using a fake Social Security number.
''We're not pleased with the deal, . . . (but) there's no doubt we were guilty,'' said defense attorney Gene Cyrus. ''He's doing his time.''
Under state law, all Outside bear hunters must hire a licensed guide to make sure they comply with Alaska's safety and resource protection rules. Roberts has never had a guiding license, D'Angelo said. At the time of the illegal hunt, his personal hunting privileges had been suspended after a charge of wasting game, D'Angelo said.
As part of the sentence, Ashman put Roberts on probation for 10 years and banned him from any kind of hunting in Alaska for five years. He can't even go along with someone who is legally hunting, said assistant attorney general Eric Aarseth.
This court hearing ended a saga that began in 1999 when a suspicious California bow hunter decided to check Roberts' guide license after talking to him about a hunt. State officials said Roberts had no license and alerted Alaska State Troopers, who mounted an extensive and expensive fake hunt, Aarseth said.
Fish and Wildlife Protection Lt. Franco D'Angelo flew to California and, along with a California game warden, hired Roberts for a fall bear hunt, paying $5,000 in advance. The restitution ordered by the judge was to reimburse the troopers for this payout.
D'Angelo flew back to Alaska in September 1999 posing as a Californian. In the course of the undercover hunt, Roberts put someone else's name on nonresident hunting tags, flew the hunters to a camp site near Talkeetna, although he has never had a pilot's license, spotted game from the air, then landed and hunted it, baited an illegal bear trap that would have ruined the animal as a trophy hide but kept it alive so the gallbladder could be harvested, allowed the illegal snagging of fish, and instructed hunters to shoot at any bear they saw, including cubs, Aarseth said. ''Anything that moved around was getting shot at.'' ''Mr. Roberts was just trying to make a living as an outdoorsman,'' Cyrus told the judge.
Roberts was also driving without a valid license, Aarseth said.
D'Angelo testified that he aborted the undercover hunt when he became concerned about the number of animals likely to be taken. One bear and a sublegal moose had been killed and a second bear wounded when d'Angelo called in backup officers who had been waiting for his signal. When Roberts spotted the trooper helicopter, he ran into the woods and remained at large until May 2000.
The Winchester that Roberts used during the hunt later proved to have been stolen in Fairbanks in the 1980s, Aarseth said. Cyrus said his client bought the gun legally at a gun shop.
Roberts declined an opportunity to speak to the judge on his own behalf. In handing down the sentence, Ashman called him ''a real scourge on the other, very honorable guides and ethical hunters of Alaska.'' Unlike with most people who come before misdemeanor judges, Roberts' behavior was not impulsive or fueled by alcohol or drugs, Ashman said. ''Mr. Roberts is clearly a professional criminal.''
Anchorage Daily News