GOLD BEACH - An investigation by the Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division's Special Investigations Unit led to the conviction and sentencing of two Gold Beach-area men for unlawful taking flat abalone along the southern Oregon Coast.

One of the men convicted, Kevin Lee Hiersche, 51, was the only person in Oregon to be issued a permit by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to harvest wild flat abalone. He was also the only person legally allowed to commercially harvest wild abalone along the West Coast.

After pleading guilty to five charges in Curry County Circuit Court he was sentenced to 40 days in jail plus 36 months probation and must serve 120 hours of community service. He was fined $21,000 and ordered to pay $18,538 in restitution to ODFW.

"Mr. Hiersche was entrusted with a tremendous privilege, but greed and temptation led him to violate that trust in the worst possible way," said OSP Sgt. David Anderson.

The OSP unit is primarily responsible for conducting in-depth and complex investigations of individuals or groups in violation of the fish and wildlife laws and regulations, with specific emphasis on those violators that are flagrant or illegally commercializing our state's fish and wildlife resources.

In March 2009, OSP investigators served a search warrant at Hiersche's residence and seized evidence, including his personal log and invoice books.

Thirty pounds of frozen, vacuum-sealed flat abalone was also seized that Hiersche and Daniel William Wright, 40, illegally harvested in 2009 without a valid permit. Wright had assisted as a "tender" while Hiersche dove from his boat named the "Jerry Lee."

Hiersche admitted to investigators he reported false harvest poundage, and a review of seized personal log books revealed he exceeded annual allowable harvest amounts in seven of the eight years he had a permit.

In August 2009, a Curry County Grand Jury indicted Hiersche on 44 misdemeanor and felony counts and Wright on five felony counts. Hiersche admitted one felony and four misdemeanors. Wright pleaded to one felony count and was sentenced to 10 days in jail plus 18 months probation. He must pay a $2,500 fine and $5,000 restitution.

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