Welcome back to Member Monday. It’s a pleasure to showcase another installment from member Steve Callan’s book Badges, Bears, and Eagles. You can read previous excerpts here and here. Then mark your calendars because Steve will be signing copies of Badges, Bears, and Eagles at the Redding Costco on Saturday April 26th from 10am to 4pm. Today Steve shares a chapter about a three-year undercover investigation that turned out to be one of the most successful wildlife-related criminal investigations in California history.
Bears and Bad Guys: An Excerpt from Badges, Bears, and Eagles
by Steve Callan
“So what’s been going on?” Westerby asked. “I tried calling you a dozen times.”
Hoang convinced Westerby that he had been out of the country.
“I figured you was,” said Westerby.
“These aren’t too bad,” said Hoang.
Westerby began to act impatient: “What’ll ya give me for ’em?”
“These aren’t too fresh,” Hoang said. “When did you take them?”
Westerby blinked a few times and looked around some more, as if stalling while he decided how to answer. “One was killed two days ago, one was four days ago and the other was five days ago. I’ll be gettin’ more, too.” he added.
“Yeah?” said Hoang.
“I killed two cougars yesterday,” said Westerby
“Wow!” said Hoang.
“Ya know, I just got home about two nights before you called,” said Westerby.
“I’ll give you four hundred,” said Hoang.
Westerby puffed himself up and pursed his lips, unhappy with the offer. The diminutive undercover agent realized that the much larger man-a classic bully-was going to try to intimidate him, so he played along, milking his role as the timid, soft-spoken Asian. Agent Hoan had become quite proficient at his temporary job. The more he negotiated over price, the more convincing he appeared.
“I can get two apiece for ’em right up the road here,” Westerby growled, gesturing wildly.
Having recently listened to a recorded conversation near Jason Lee’s mountain rental house, Hoang immediately realized who Westerby was referring to.
“The guy right up the road gives me two for the small ones and three or three and a half for the bigger ones,” Westerby boasted.
“Who are you dealing with?” asked Hoang.
The easily excitable Westerby launched into a tirade. “Every hound hunter in the world. Ya know what I mean? Hell, there’s only a hundred hound hunters around here who have connections, ya know. And Jason does better than that.”
Westerby’s recorded statement validated what Szody and I had suspected for some time: many of the area houndsmen were selling bear gall bladders and most of them were selling to Jason Lee, either directly or indirectly.
The cat was out of the bag.
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