An interview with Timothy Riffey, a San Juan County resident, revealed that he had been given highly-sought-after Elk Ridge limited entry deer permits from 2010-2012. Officers believe Derren Klein and John Peterson obtained the permits for Riffey, who qualified for a Special Season Extension for Disabled Persons, allowing them to hunt during the rut when big bucks are more visible.
In the interview, Riffey explained that he was only present during the hunts to cover the permits in case they were checked by wildlife officers. Riffey also told investigators he does not own firearms and had never hunted big game in Utah prior to 2010.
In November of 2011, a 35-inch trophy buck was illegally killed using Riffey’s permit. Klein, John and James Peterson, and Riffey all were eventually charged with third degree felony Wanton Destruction of Protected Wildlife in the case.
Riffey was also charged with third degree felony Obstruction of Justice. Klein and Riffey eventually pleaded guilty to class A misdemeanor Wanton Destruction of Protected Wildlife.
During the investigation, another incident was discovered involving three of the same individuals. In September of 2011, John Peterson drew a limited entry San Juan bull elk permit. He was aided during the hunt by James Peterson, Klein, and Mason Latham.
John Peterson shot and killed a 6x7 trophy bull on Elk Ridge and abandoned it because the antlers were not large enough. Peterson then killed a 380-inch trophy bull several days later on the Abajo Mountains.
John and James Peterson, Klein and Mason Latham all were charged with third degree felony Wanton Destruction of Protected Wildlife.
John and James Peterson and Klein all pleaded to class A misdemeanor Wanton Destruction of Protected Wildlife. Latham pleaded guilty to class B misdemeanor Unlawful Taking of Protected Wildlife.
The fines and restitution for both cases totaled $20,500. The men involved face the potential loss of hunting privileges for 10 to 20 years.
Citizen support and assistance is the key to any successful law enforcement program. Those with information regarding wildlife offenses are encouraged to contact the UTIP Hotline at 1-800-662-3337 or any Division of Wildlife Resources office.
Rewards are available for information that leads to the successful prosecution of wildlife crimes. Requests for confidentiality or anonymity are respected.