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Caviar producers reach prosecution agreement in sturgeon egg scheme

Fish eggs
Fish eggs
Published: Mar. 1, 2021 at 2:53 PM CST
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FOND DU LAC, Wis. (WBAY) - Two caviar producers accused in a DNR sturgeon egg investigation could have their criminal charges dismissed.

Action 2 News learned Victor and Mary Schneider entered an agreement with the Fond du Lac County district attorney last month to avoid prosecution if they don’t participate in caviar production for a year and follow other conditions.

The Schneiders are charged with being party to the unlawful sale of game. A criminal complaint says they received sturgeon eggs and would process it in exchange for keeping half of the caviar it produced. The complaint says the Schneiders continued even after being told by a warden in 2012 that bartering for caviar was illegal.

This is not a plea deal. The district attorney is agreeing not to pursue the charges against them as long as they meet all of the conditions. These conditions also include not committing any criminal offenses in the next 12 months and reporting to a diversion coordinator on the third Wednesday of every month.

The district attorney could choose to dismiss the charges sooner than 12 months. The D.A. also has up to 6 months after that period is up to discover any conditions of the deferment were violated, in which case the charges could be reinstated.

As we’ve previously reported, the Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service investigated reports that sturgeon eggs intended for research were being “illegally bought, sold or bartered” in the Lake Winnebago area. They claim DNR fisheries biologist Ryan Koenigs provided a caviar producer access to the facility where the eggs were stored. The criminal complaint said this arrangement had been in place for years, but Koenigs and others continued it.

Koenigs is charged obstructing a DNR warden in an investigation and misdemeanor theft. Bar owner Shawn Wendt, who said he processed eggs for customers and served caviar at his bar, is also charged in the case.

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