A Wisconsin official known as the “sturgeon general” is turning out to be a bad egg in a caviar-trading scheme.
Prosecutors have charged Ryan Koenigs, a top sturgeon expert at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), with obstructing an investigation after he alleged that his workers were using valuable fish eggs for a scientific study, when instead some of those eggs were being taken to caviar processors.
The DNR confirmed to Fox News on Monday that Koenigs was placed on administrative leave on Feb. 11 following an internal investigation, but would not comment futher.
Hunters and fishermen who take part in the annual “sturgeon spearing season” near Oshkosh can keep the fish and their eggs, provided that they don’t intend to sell them, according to a report from the Associated Press. But workers with the DNR — workers that Koenigs was overseeing — would sometimes ask they could collect the eggs from the fishermen as part of a fertility study.
Investigators with the DNR, together with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, eventually became aware that some of these fish eggs were being placed into coolers marked for caviar processing.
Koenigs initially denied any wrongdoing, and even denied ever speaking with the caviar processor, despite phone records that indicated he had. He later claimed that sometimes his workers will transport the eggs to the caviar processor at the request of the fishermen, and that sometimes the processor will provide the workers with caviar as a gift.
Another supervisor told investigators that the processors had provided caviar for the department “for years,” according to the AP. The deparment ate that caviar at meetings, he added.
Earlier this month, Koenigs finally admitted his employees took sturgeon eggs to caviar processors only after they were done using them for fertility research.
He was charged last Thursday with obstructing a conservation warden’s investigation, which carries possible penalties of nine months in prison or $10,000 in fines.
“The sale, trade, or barter of any part of a Lake Sturgeon is prohibited The investigation revealed that a number of citizens were making caviar for others, and were accepting sturgeon roe or finished caviar in exchange for their services, which is an illegal barter,” the criminal complaint read as reported by FOX 11 News.
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