The following press release is courtesy of the U.S. Department of Justice
Wildlife Management, LLC, an Alameda County development company, and its President, James Tong, were sentenced today for securities fraud and violations of the Endangered Species Act, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Brian J. Stretch and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Special Agent in Charge Jill Birchell. Today’s sentence, handed down by the Honorable Jon S. Tigar, U.S. District Judge, is a global resolution of state and federal criminal charges against the defendants that will include payments totaling $1 million in restitution to entities that protect the environment and a conservation easement on 107 acres of land in Contra Costa County.
Wildlife Management, LLC, based in Dublin, Calif., financed and developed residential and commercial real estate projects in the East Bay. Real estate developers like Wildlife Management are required to mitigate for the loss of threatened or endangered species when a project impacts a protected species or its habitat. During the development of the Dublin Ranch North real estate project in Dublin, a person acting on behalf of Wildlife Management submitted to the City of Dublin a forged $3.2 million mitigation receipt from the Ohlone Preserve Conservation Bank with the intent to deceive the City into believing Wildlife Management had purchased mitigation credits when it had not. Wildlife Management pleaded guilty to securities fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 513(a), on January 8, 2016.
As part of the sentence, Judge Tigar ordered Wildlife Management to serve one year probation and pay $175,000 in restitution to resolve the federal case. The restitution will be paid to the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, a non-profit organization established by Congress to administer such funds.
Tong, 70, of Pleasanton, Calif., and President of Wildlife Management, pleaded guilty to a criminal violation of the Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 1538(a)(1)(G) and 1540(b)(1), on January 8, 2016. In his plea agreement, Tong admitted that he directed the grading activities at Dublin Ranch North without the City’s required mitigation measure and without authorization from wildlife officials. The grading activities caused sediment to run off into a pond that provided habitat for the California Tiger Salamander. In the federal case, Tong was charged with one count of violating the Endangered Species Act. Tong also pleaded nolo contendere to a criminal forgery charge pending against him in state court. To resolve both the federal and state criminal cases, Tong has agreed to pay $350,000 to the Alameda County Fish and Game Commission, $175,000 to the Contra Costa County Fish and Wildlife Propagation Fund, and $300,000 to the California Department Fish and Wildlife. The funds paid to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife will be split equally between the Pollution Account and the Preservation Fund. Judge Tigar’s sentence today converts the parties’ agreements to an order of the Court. Judge Tigar also ordered Tong to serve one year of probation, to serve four months home detention, and to provide a conservation easement on a 107-acre parcel of land in Contra Costa known as the Brown Ranch. The conservation easement provides habitat for endangered species and will prohibit any future owners from developing the property. The easement has an estimated value of $3 million. In addition, Judge Tigar ordered Tong to place more than $300,000 into an account to manage the Brown Ranch conservation easement in perpetuity.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Maureen Bessette is prosecuting the federal case with the assistance of Melissa Dorton. Deputy Attorney Generals Jason Malinsky and Brett Morris prosecuted the state case. The prosecution was the result of an investigation by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the USFWS Office of Law Enforcement.