UPDATE: Former DNR sturgeon expert convicted of lesser charge, won’t serve time

Local News

FRIDAY, 6/11/2021 11:25 a.m.

(WFRV) – Ryan Koenigs, the former Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources top sturgeon expert has been convicted in court Friday morning, but of a lesser charge.

According to Winnebago County court documents, Koenigs was convicted of obstructing a DNR warden. He was originally charged with theft of moveable property and resisting a warden. He will not serve anytime but will pay a fine after pleading no contest.

Koenigs has also lost his job with the Wisconsin DNR.

UPDATE: Wisconsin DNR’s top sturgeon expert pleads not guilty in caviar scheme

TUESDAY 3/9/2021 10:00 a.m.

(WFRV) – Ryan Koenigs, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ top sturgeon expert was in court and pled not guilty for his involvement in a caviar scheme

According to court documents, Koenigs will be back in court on June 11 for a plea/sentencing hearing.

Koenings was released on a $500 signature bond.

After an investigation, authorities report that, over the course of years, DNR fisheries biologist Koenigs oversaw the illegal production of sturgeon caviar.

A criminal complaint says Koenisg will be facing one count of misdemeanor theft.

UPDATE: Two people charged in sturgeon caviar scheme reach agreement

THRUSDAY, 2/25/2021, 11:45 a.m.

(WFRV) – According to Fond du Lac County Attorney Eric Toney, two people charged in the sturgeon caviar scheme in Northeast Wisconsin have reached a deal.

88-year-old Victor Schneider and his wife, 87-year-old Mary Schneider entered in a Deferred Prosecution Agreement with the District Attorney.

They were each facing a misdemeanor charge of being party illegally processing sturgeon eggs while keeping some of the caviar. However, they do not have a criminal record.

The agreement lasts for one year and they will not be scheduled to appear in court.

UPDATE: Fond du Lac Co. residents charged in sturgeon caviar scheme

FRIDAY, 2/12/ 2021, 06:55 p.m.

FOND DU LAC, Wis. (WFRV) – Additional people are facing charges on illegal processing of sturgeon eggs into caviar.

According to a release, Shawn Wendt is facing two counts of unlawful sale of deer/bear/game fish.

Authorities say on Jan. 31, Wendt had spoken to a DNR warden about the ongoing investigation into sturgeon caviar/roe processing.

In the discussion, the warden says Wendt told them how he processes caviar and shares it at his business Wendt’s on the Lake in Van Dyne.

Wendt goes on to tell the warden that money is never exchanged between him and the person asking for their sturgeon eggs to be cleaned.

After a while, the DNR warden says they told Wendt that it is illegal to serve sturgeon caviar in his bar for customers and at his parties held in the bar and Wendt would need to get a Wild Game Feeding permit.

The warden then says Wendt tells them he would look into getting a permit but mentions if he cannot serve the caviar at his bar then he was going to stop processing it.

Another criminal complaint says Ryan Koenigs will be facing one count of misdemeanor theft.

After an investigation, authorities report that, over the course of years, DNR fisheries biologist Ryan Koenigs oversaw the illegal production of sturgeon caviar.

Koenigs is said to have allowed caviar producer, and former DNR fisheries biologist, Arthur Techlow the third into the Oshkosh DNR Service Center after hours to take possession of sturgeon roe that had been collected by the DNR for research purposes.

DNR wardens say this action is illegal because the roe would have been the property of the State of Wisconsin and policies were in place indicating that the roe could not be transferred to someone else or utilized for personal gain.

The complaint says Techlow would use the roe to produce caviar, and Koenigs would then receive some of the finished product back from Techlow for his own personal use, and for the benefit of other DNR employees.

This sort of arrangement had been established prior to Koenigs taking over a leadership role, and continued under Koenigs, despite a warning from DNR wardens in 2011 that DNR fisheries staff needed to be disposing of eggs or returning them to the spearer after research was completed.

According to a third criminal complaint, both Victor Schneider and Mary Schneider have one count each of unlawful sale of deer/bear/game fish – party to a crime.

In 2012, DNR wardens contacted Victor Schneider and told him that processing roe/eggs into caviar for others on a barter was illegal.

Years later in 2019, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article discussed an interview with Mary Schneider and stated that the Schneider’s were still processing and “return one-half of the roe to the fisherman who brought it and keep the rest in the freezer, using baby food jars.”

On Jan. 29, 2020, DNR wardens met up with both Victor and Mary Schneider at their home in Fond du Lac to talk about the article.

During the interview, the Schneiders walked the wardens through how they processed the eggs and reiterates the “process in halves” bargain.

Later, Victor asked the wardens if they wanted to taste the caviar and proceeded to try and give them a jar when they had declined. The jar was later accepted and the Schneider’s were given a seizure tag for the item.

Mary then tells the wardens that she knew Shawn Wendt was another roe processor and knew he would take jars to his bar.

Toward the end of the interview, the DNR wardens say they told the Schneiders that bartering is illegal and that while they could charge a fee for processing the roe, they can’t do the processing in exchange for a share of the caviar.

UPDATE: Three more charged in sturgeon caviar investigation

Feb 12, 2021 04:20 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Prosecutors have charged three Fond du Lac County residents as part of an investigation into allegations that people around Lake Winnebago have been illegally processing sturgeon eggs into caviar.

Online court records show Shawn Wendt, a bartender at Wendt’s on the Lake restaurant in Van Dyne, was charged Feb. 5 with two misdemeanor counts of illegally selling game fish.

He faces up to a year in jail if convicted of both counts.

Mary and Victor Schneider of the city of Fond du Lac were each charged Thursday with the same misdemeanor.

State and federal law prohibit bartering or selling sturgeon eggs.

UPDATE: Fond du Lac Co. bartender charged in sturgeon caviar investigation

Feb 12, 2021 2:13 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Prosecutors have charged a Fond du Lac County bartender in a sweeping investigation into allegations that people around Lake Winnebago have been illegally processing sturgeon eggs into caviar.

Online court records show Shawn Wendt, a bartender at Wendt’s on the Lake restaurant in Van Dyne, was charged Feb. 5 with two misdemeanor counts of illegally selling game fish.

Shawn Wendt

He faces up to a year in jail if convicted of both counts. According to court documents, Wendt told a conservation warden in January 2020 that he processes his friends’ sturgeon eggs into caviar and keeps some in return to serve at his restaurant. State and federal law prohibit bartering or selling sturgeon eggs.

ORIGINAL STORY: Wisconsin biologist charged with lying about caviar scheme

Feb 11, 2021, 12:20 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Prosecutors have charged the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ top sturgeon expert with obstructing an investigation into allegations that DNR workers have been funneling sturgeon eggs to processors in exchange for jars of caviar.

Ryan Koenigs was charged in Calumet County on Thursday with a misdemeanor count obstructing a conservation warden. According to a criminal complaint, Koenigs told a DNR warden and a federal agent in January 2020 that he didn’t know anything about allegations that DNR workers at sturgeon registration stations were telling spearers they wanted eggs for a scientific study but were sending them to processors in exchange for caviar.

Koenigs told the investigators this week that his workers were taking eggs to processors after the research concluded.

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