North Platte woman sentenced in federal court for unlawfully shooting mule deer

September 30 roundup from District of Nebraska
Published: Sep. 30, 2023 at 12:47 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Below is a roundup of sentences recently handed down in federal court in Omaha, according to updates from acting U.S. Attorney Susan T. Lehr.

The acting U.S. Attorney’s office in Omaha reminds the public that there is no parole in the federal system.

Glenn Lemar Cass, 52, of Omaha, was sentenced Sept. 21 for conspiracy to distribute over 40 grams of fentanyl and possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. Cass was sentenced to a decade in prison and will serve five years of supervised release.

Omaha Police executed a search warrant on Cass’s north Omaha home in December of 2021. He was handcuffed in the main floor hallway after officers found 164 grams of fentanyl, a loaded .40 caliber handgun, and drug dealing paraphernalia in his bedroom closet.

Officers also found 782 grams of marijuana in the basement, along with 8.9 grams of heroin, more than six grams of fentanyl, and $23,411 in drug trafficking proceeds. The money was forfeited to the federal government at sentencing.

Joseph T. Pearce, II, 41, of Plainview, Neb., was sentenced Sept. 20 for filing a false tax return. Pearce was sentenced to four years’ probation. He was also ordered to pay $200,411.33 in restitution.

Pearce owned and operated a painting and maintenance business between 2014 and 2018 in both Nebraska and Texas. His tax returns during that time reported profit from the business. Pearce signed each of the tax returns under penalty of perjury, signifying the returns were true, correct and complete to his knowledge. At the time Pearce made the written declaration for each tax year, he knew the reported income for each year was incorrect.

An IRS investigation determined Pearce filed returns that reported substantially less income than had been actually paid to his business; the investigation included interviews of his clients and reviews of his financial records. The investigation revealed Pearce’s tax returns failed to report $760,629 in income between 2014 and 2018. Taxes owed to the IRS equal the aforementioned restitution amount.

Roberto Balbuena-Ignacio, 36, of Mexico, was sentenced Wednesday for his involvement in a methamphetamine conspiracy. Balbuena-Ignacio was sentenced to 235 months in prison, followed by a decade of supervised release.

Beginning in May of 2021, an informant working for the Drug Enforcement Administration contacted Balbuena-Ignacio for a controlled purchase of meth. The informant later met with an individual, later identified as co-defendant Cash Cosgriff, and purchased one pound of methamphetamine. Two more drug deals were arranged between the informant and Balbuena-Ignacio; one pound of meth was purchased each time between June and July of 2021.

An investigation revealed a residence near 10th and Center in Omaha was being used by those involved in the conspiracy. A search warrant was executed in August of 2021 after two co-defendants were seen taking bags inside. The search revealed almost 57 pounds of meth and two kilograms of cocaine.

Cosgriff was sentenced in August to 10 years in prison. Teodoro Alejandro Castillo-Rincon was sentenced in June to 135 months in prison. Francisco Martinez-Mungia was sentenced in October of 2022, also receiving 135 months in prison.

The acting U.S. Attorney’s Office says Balbuena-Ignacio had a greater criminal history than his co-conspirators, which resulted in him receiving a longer sentence.

Raymond A. Butler, 52, of Omaha, was sentenced Wednesday for being a felon in possession of ammunition. Butler was sentenced to eight years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release.

Omaha Police stopped a vehicle for traffic infractions in February of 2022. Butler was identified as the driver, and a data check confirmed he was wanted on a misdemeanor arrest warrant.

A search incident to arrest turned up one Winchester 9mm Luger bullet in Butler’s pocket. He is a convicted felon, prohibited from possessing ammunition under federal law. His convictions include first-degree sexual assault in 1991, bank robbery in 2002, and delivery of a controlled substance in 2018.

Daniel Konruff, 45, of Gurley, Neb., was sentenced Thursday for possession of child pornography. Konruff was sentenced to 10 years in prison, followed by 16 years of supervised release. He was additionally ordered to pay $4,000 in restitution to victims of his crimes.

In May of 2022, Konruff’s personal cellphone was reviewed by a probation officer with Cheyenne County, Neb., pursuant to the conditions of Konruff’s state probation. Child porn was found on the device and it was seized. A search warrant was obtained and a forensic download revealed multiple child porn films.

Konruff had been convicted on two counts of attempted possession of child porn in 2017 in Cheyenne County District Court.

Cameron Woods, 44, was sentenced Thursday for possessing meth with intent to distribute. Woods was sentenced to 180 months in prison, followed by five years of supervised release.

In April of 2022, Lincoln Police officers observed a vehicle sitting at an intersection with a green light. Officers checked on the car and found Woods asleep at the wheel, with a partially empty bottle of liquor on the passenger seat.

Officers attempted to put the vehicle in park when Woods woke up and took out a purple Crown Royal bag from the center console. Inside was a clear baggie with 110 grams of 100% pure meth, verified through forensic testing. Woods was arrested and subsequently indicted on the drug trafficking crime.

A criminal history check found Woods had previously been convicted of trafficking meth in 2011; he had been sentenced to six years in prison on that charge.

Anthony Unocic, 54, of Cheyenne, Wyo., was found guilty Thursday by a Lincoln jury on one count of threatening to assault a federal law enforcement officer. He is set to be sentenced in January and faces up to six years in prison and up to three years of supervised release if convicted.

In 2021, a Wyoming ATF agent investigated Unocic for possession of an unregistered silencer. A search warrant was executed at his home where agents found the silencer, along with several firearms, ammunition, and user amounts of heroin, cocaine, and meth.

Unocic pleaded guilty in Wyoming to being a felon in possession of a firearm and was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison.

While awaiting sentencing in the Wyoming case, Unocic was held in Scotts Bluff County Jail. He expressed anger about his conviction to fellow inmates, reportedly discussing killing the ATF agent assigned to his investigation. A video from inside the jail showed him acting out how he was going to stab the agent.

Cordell Bridgeman, 35, of Omaha, was sentenced Thursday after pleading guilty in June to two counts of interference with commerce by robbery and two weapons charges for brandishing firearms during and in relation to the two armed robberies. Bridgeman was sentenced to 238 months in prison followed by four years of supervised release.

According to an investigation conducted by Omaha Police and the FBI, Bridgeman went into a Papillion Speedee Mart in September of 2020 and asked for a pack of cigars after grabbing a beverage. When asked to present identification, Bridgeman pulled a gun and set it on the counter, demanding money from the register, which the employee gave him. He told her she had five seconds to empty the till’s contents into a plastic bag.

Later that day, Bridgeman robbed the Walgreens at 30th and Dodge in Omaha. He approached an employee working the counter and asked where the hand sanitizer was located. When she went to scan the item, she noticed he had pointed a gun at her waist in his right hand. He told the employee to give him “everything in the drawer” and “no funny business.” The employee was having a difficult time opening the register, and Bridgeman started counting backward from three to one. All the money that was in the register was placed on the counter; he grabbed the money, stuffed it into his pocket, and left the store.

The government argued at sentencing that Bridgeman used excessive violence during the robberies. They also noted he was a registered sex offender at the time the robberies were committed; he had updated his sex offender registry with Sarpy County on the same day, in the same clothing. That evidence, along with eyewitness cooperation, helped to secure the convictions in the case.

Kenneth Brinton, 65, formerly of Wilber, Neb., was sentenced Friday on one count of possession of child porn. Brinton was sentenced to 13 years in prison followed by 13 years of supervised release.

The investigation began when the Saline County Sheriff’s Office was informed Brinton had been arrested by Beatrice Police for sexual assault of a child, child enticement, and additional charges involving a minor. A search warrant for Brinton’s residence was obtained and executed; the search revealed 57 videos and eight images that contained child porn on his electronic storage devices. Some of the files depicted minor females in the bathroom of his home. Brinton himself also appeared in several of the videos as he would stop and start the camera before they went into the bathroom. He admitted to recording and saving the videos during the investigation.

Jennifer M. Payne, 45, of North Platte, was sentenced Friday for a violation of the Lacey Act in relation to a 2019 deer hunt. Payne was sentenced to two years’ probation for unlawful transportation of wildlife in interstate commerce. Payne was also ordered to pay a $5,000 fine, an additional $5,000 in restitution, and must complete 100 hours of community service.

As part of her probation terms, Payne must not hunt, fish, trap, provide guiding or outfitting services, or assist or be present with anyone doing those activities during her probationary term.

A joint investigation conducted by Nebraska Game and Parks and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined in September 2019 that Payne conducted a guided mule deer hunt during archery season. During that hunt, she unlawfully shot a mule deer in Lincoln County and caused parts of the deer to be shipped to a commercial tannery in Michigan.

Payne admitted she participated in such a hunt with Noble Outdoors, a commercial big game guiding business based in North Platte. During the hunt, while guided by the business owner and another client, unlawfully shot a buck with 5x5 antlers during closed season hours from a vehicle operated by the business owner. They also posed for nighttime photos with the deer and a crossbow in an attempt to conceal the deer was killed by a firearm.

Under Nebraska law, hunters are prohibited from possessing firearms or using them to hunt deer during the archery season, are prohibited from shooting from or over a roadway, and are authorized to hunt only between 30 minutes prior to sunrise to 30 minutes past sunset.

Numerous violations have been committed by Noble Outdoors ownership and clientele between 2015 and 2021. In total, 18 defendants have been sentenced and ordered to pay more than $75,000 in fines and restitution for state and federal violations related to this type of crime.