BY MIKE STEVENS
VENTURA – Six of seven suspects are in custody with the seventh being sought by authorities following a bust by California Department of Fish and Wildlife wardens of a poaching operation that went on for over two years and worked with a local grocery store in Piru. The group is believed to be responsible for dozens of illegal wildlife harvests.
According to a press release, District Attorney Erik Nasarenko announced the filing of charges against a group of poachers and wildlife traffickers known as the “E-Bike Crew.” Seven people have been charged with 21 counts of filing a false or forged document, conspiracy, receiving stolen property, unlawful possession of untagged bear, and animal abuse or cruelty.
On December 5, six of the seven defendants were arraigned in the Ventura County Superior Court. California Department of Fish and Wildlife investigated the “E-Bike Crew” discovering that they worked with Lizette’s Market in Piru to fraudulently reprint hunting licenses and tags.
The six member wildlife trafficking organization (“WTO”) is accused of conspiring with Lizette’s Market beginning in June 2019 through October 2021, allegedly producing the false and fake tags to hunt and take more deer, pigs and bears than legally allowed by state law.
Martin Bravo Sr. of Oxnard, Martin M. Bravo of Oxnard, Walfre Lopez y. Lopez of Oxnard, Gilberto Lopez Hernandez of Thousand Oaks, Jaime Mendoza Avila of Porterville and Cristian Lopez Perez of Los Angeles, are the charged members of the WTO.
Juventino Reyes Guerrera of Piru, is facing the same charges and was the operator of Fish & Wildlife licensing equipment located at Lizette’s Market. There is an active arrest warrant in the amount of $200,000 for Defendant Lopez y Lopez. The other six defendants are in custody and being held on $200,000 bail in the Ventura County Jail.
“With the reprint scheme enacted, the wildlife trafficking organization was allowed to go into the surrounding wilderness areas in and around Ventura County and provided the means to illegally kill any game animal at any given time with a safeguard in place in the event the group was confronted by law enforcement,” the arrest warrant states.
“The execution of this scheme has resulted in a significant loss to wildlife resources within the county, the deprivation of lawful hunting opportunity for law-abiding citizens, and the illegal commercialization of native wildlife for personal gain or profit.”
Lizzette’s Market is equipped with a DFW licensing machine from which legal tags were printed for the group, but the allegations suggest Reyes Guerrera was reprinting tickets and blaming it on poor print quality. DFW wardens allege, rather than discarding of the extra tags, he was giving the group members which prompted them to harvest significantly more game than the state allows. According to KTLA, the licensing terminal at Lizette’s produced more reprints than any license dealer in the state.
“There are many reasons why the number of animals taken is limited in California and most hunters respect that,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association President, Alan Barcelona. “The illegal poaching of wild animals can disrupt the balance of California’s wildlife population. These investigations can take time and certainly put CDFW wardens in harm’s way.”