January 2, 2019

From David Figuradfigura, NewYorkUpstate.com

Syracuse, NY — A well-known North Country outdoors guide and outdoors TV personality who was fined $5,000 in 2017 for illegally conducting guided waterfowl hunts over baited ponds for profit has been charged with violating his probation by committing the same acts again.

William Saiff III, of Henderson, appeared in U.S District Court of the Northern District of New York in Syracuse on Dec. 19. The prior offenses, which he pleaded guilty to in 2017, and the most recent alleged actions that investigators say he committed, violate the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

During the Dec. 19 court appearance in Syracuse, Saiff’s probation for offenses that he admitted committing in 2015 was modified slightly by United States Magistrate Judge Therese Wiley Dancks to include “home confinement,” which his attorney said involved a daily “curfew” between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. when that he has to be home pending resolution of the probation violation allegations.

At this point, Saiff has been been charged only with violating his probation and not for his most recent actions, which allegedly took place during 2018. His probation, which began in July 2017 following his plea bargain and guilty pleas, was to have ended Tuesday. The case is due back in court on Feb. 8.

A court document from his Dec. 19 appearance states: “According to federal and state wildlife law enforcement officials, the offender (Saiff) has been involved in placing and directing the placement of bait on or over the baited area, in violation of 16 U.S.C. No. 704 (b)(2) and 707 (b) (2). On Dec. 7, 2018, The probation officer met with investigators and reviewed the evidence in this case.

“Based on the review of the evidence and interviews with investigators, it appears the offender has engaged in conduct in violation of federal law. This information is based on a review of investigative materials and interviews with investigators and the Assistant U.S. Attorney assigned to the case.”

The dates and locations of the most recent alleged offenses were not included in court documents.

Saiff runs Bill Saiff Outdoors, which provides fishing and hunting trips. His fishing charters company has been Lake Ontario’s largest private charter operation for more than 30 years, according to his Facebook page.

Saiff hosted the popular hunting and shooting sports program “Cabin Country” on public television stations across the country. He also owns the Westview Lodge in Henderson Harbor, which features a hotel, restaurant and full-service bar.

In 2017, Saiff, who was then represented by Watertown attorney Matthew Porter, expressed remorse in court and took full responsibility for his actions, noting that he and the guides who work for him are “ambassadors for the outdoors first, and guides second.”

He said in court he had had extensive discussions with his staff “so this doesn’t happen again.”

At the time, he pleaded guilty to two counts. He faced a maximum prison sentence of up to one year and a fines of up to $100,000 per count.

Along with the $5,000 fine, the 2017 sentence handed down by United States Magistrate Judge Therese Wiley Dancks including the requirement that Saiff make charitable donations totaling $10,000 to non-profit wildlife organizations of his choice. He had all his state hunting or guiding privileges (other than fishing) taken away until Jan. 1, 2019.

Finally, he was instructed to pay for the publishing of half page ads apologizing for his actions that run in the Watertown Daily Times and New York Outdoors News.

In his written plea bargain in 2017, Saiff admitted that “on Oct. 27, 2015, he guided a hunting party over a baited pond in the Town of Cape Vincent, in Jefferson County. Saiff had previously installed an underwater trough at the pond to hold bait. As part of his guilty plea, Saiff admitted that prior to the hunt he stocked the trough with corn to attract waterfowl to the pond. Investigators found the hidden trough stocked with corn one day prior to the hunt. Before they were approached by investigators who stopped the hunt, Saiff’s hunting party shot and killed several protected waterfowl,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“Saiff also admitted that on October 31, 2015, he guided a hunting party over a baited pond in the Town of Rodman in Jefferson County. Saiff acknowledged that he placed approximately 50 pounds of corn along the shoreline of the pond less than ten days prior to that hunt. Saiff’s hunting party killed several protected birds, including geese and ducks, before a law enforcement officer intervened and seized the dead waterfowl,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The most recent allegations against Saiff came about as a result of investigations by by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state Department of Environmental Conservation officers. NYup.com has requested additional information from both agencies on the case.

Under the terms of his sentence in 2017, Saiff was still allowed to handle the administrative aspects of his hunting and fishing business, but was “banned from participating or being within sight or ear-shot of a hunt.”

The current case is being prosecuted by Asst. U.S. Attorney Michael F. Perry. Saiff was represented in court on Dec. 19 by lawyer David P. Antonucci of Watertown.

“It’s our position that he did not violate the terms of his probation,” Antonucci said.


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