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Iowa man convicted for scamming out-of-state hunters

| Friday, Jan. 12, 2018, 2:30 p.m.

A man from southeast Iowa has been convicted of scamming out-of-state hunters in a case that raises questions about whether the state does enough to protect against fraudulent outfitters.

Andrew Wulf, 34, was convicted Thursday on two counts of felony theft and ongoing criminal conduct, the Des Moines Register reported . Wulf owns Whitetail Ridge Outfitters in Tipton and was accused of swindling three out-of-state customers, leading illegal hunts and ripping off customers.

Wulf faces up to 35 years in prison. He will be sentenced in March.

The case has reignited discussion about whether legislation is needed to better protect hunters against fraud in Iowa, a destination for thousands of out-of-state hunters each year.

Several states regulate and license outfitters and guides, including Alaska, New Mexico and Wyoming. States often regulate who is permitted to advertise outfitting services and what information can be covered in contracts for services.

In Iowa, conservation officers can suspend hunting licenses, which effectively prohibits outfitters and guides from doing business. They can also enforce cases in federal courts through law enforcement agencies like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. But the state's Department of Natural Resources doesn't specifically track law violations or license penalties by outfitters and guides.

Bettendorf hunter Jim Coontz said he doesn't believe the state's existing penalties are enough to discourage illegal hunts or fraud.

“We definitely need some kind of laws, because this has gotten out of hand,” Coontz said.

Several conservation officials have said that illegal hunting in the state has reached an alarming rate, but the scale of fraud is unknown.

“I would say cases have probably increased, but it can take years for them to come to fruition,” said Matt Rush, a conservation officer who worked on the Wulf investigation.

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