Couple convicted in license fraud scheme

A husband and wife in Montrose County recently pleaded guilty to defrauding the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) and will be required to pay more than $11,000 in fines. They also could lose hunting and fishing privileges in Colorado and 18 other states.

Robert M. Sunn, 30, and Amy Sunn, 29, both of Olathe, were found to have obtained elk-hunting licenses using false information. The convictions both resulted from an investigation that started after the DOW received an anonymous tip that Robert Sunn held two licenses for the 2003 deer-hunting season.

On June 13 in the 7th Judicial District court in Montrose, he pleaded guilty to one count of felony forgery of a government-issued document and 26 misdemeanors related to falsifying documents. Originally, he was charged with 21 felony and 26 misdemeaonr charges. Sunn was ordered to pay a $7,000 fine to the state and $3,000 to the Operation Game Thief program. The DOW also requested that he be imprisoned for at least 60 days. A sentencing hearing in August will determine if Sunn will be required to serve any jail time.

Sunn also has been assessed more than 200 suspension points by the DOW, which will be applied against his hunting and fishing privileges. Anyone who accumulates 20 points in a five-year period can lose their hunting privileges for a year or more. A hearing with the DOW regarding his hunting privileges hasn't been scheduled. Any suspension will automatically be applied in the 18 other states that participate in a special wildlife-crimes compact with Colorado.

Mrs. Sunn pleaded guilty on May 31 to hunting without a valid and proper license, a misdemeanor. She was fined $1,342 and was assessed 15 suspension points.

"Mr. Sunn developed some very sophisticated schemes that enabled them to purchase multiple licenses," said Bill de Vergie, area wildlife manager for the DOW in Montrose and lead investigator on the case. "We were able to catch them through the use of sophisticated data-base technology that allows us to cross-reference a variety of licensing data and public records."

The investigation started in November 2003 when de Vergie received an anonymous tip that Robert M. Sunn held two deer hunting licenses for the 2002 season. The DOW allows only one license per hunter. The lengthy investigation showed that he used false names, social security numbers and dates of birth to purchase two licenses. He also obtained hunting licenses and preference points using his two young sons' names on applications. DOW officers found that the children were too young to apply for licenses.

Sunn also submitted a false application to obtain a landowner preference permit for big game licenses. In the application he claimed to own land that was not his.

He also attempted to gain extra preference points for elk licenses in Game Management Unit 61, an area renowned for big bulls. Sunn applied for a license for the unit through the DOW's mail-in program. A few months later, after receiving his license, he called the DOW's licensing office and said he never received the permit. Assuming it had been lost in the mail, the DOW sent him another license.

Just before the season he sent the second license back and explained he would be unable to hunt. In those situations, the DOW takes the license back but still allows a hunter to accumulate the preference points. In Sunn's case he accumulated points fraudulently. He also hunted using the first license.

DOW investigators found that Mrs. Sunn used the same fraudulent technique in 2003.

The big break in the case came when de Vergie inspected bank records that showed all the licenses had been paid for with checks from the Sunn's personal and business accounts.

"It's one of the most complicated cases of license fraud we've ever seen," de Vergie said. "And we couldn't have tracked this without a tip from the public."

People who have information concerning wildlife violations are asked to call Operation Game Thief at 1-877-265-6648. Tips can be given anonymously and rewards are offered.