Gonzales Cannon News Services
Posted April 8, 2010 - 8:28am
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on Wednesday charged a Pasadena couple with operating an unlawful Internet-based game hunt operation in Gonzales that defrauded Texas hunters.
At the attorney general’s request, the Gonzales County District Court issued a temporary restraining order and froze assets controlled by Paul and Angela Candelaria, the owners of Candelaria Ranch, LLC. A temporary injunction hearing is set for 9 a.m. on April 16.
Since at least 2007, the Candelarias have offered “world class,” open range wild animal hunts via their two Web sites and eBay. The defendants advertise Candelaria Ranch, LLC as a 2,000-acre prime destination for hunting wild hogs, antelope, deer, turkey, squirrels, sheep, rabbits and other animals classified as varmints, including bobcats, opossums, armadillos and gophers.
The Candelarias even advertise zebra, water buffalo and mountain lion hunts. The package fees for each hunt vary from about $500 per person to more than $2,000 for small groups.
However, hunters’ complaints with the Office of the Attorney General noted that the Candelarias wholly under-represented the numbers and concentrations of animals to be hunted.
Promotional advertising described the ranch as having the highest concentration of the state’s estimated population of three million wild hogs. According to court documents filed by the state, the defendants played to hunters’ conservationist instincts by urging them to help thin out their ranch’s destructive hog population.
Despite the defendants’ claims, however, the hunts appeared to be “canned” as the animals appeared to be tame, not wild. State investigators learned that many hogs on the ranch were purchased from other ranches.
Hunters’ complaints also pointed out that the Gonzales-area ranch comprises only about 250 acres – not thousands of acres – which they complained were often teeming with large numbers of other sportsmen. Many hunters reported fearing for their safety.
Candelaria Ranch advertisements promised “guided” hunts, but most hunters were left on their own to find animals and were not actively accompanied by guides.
The ranch failed to disclose hidden fees, such as charges for the trained “guides,” animal skinning and cleaning, freezer storage or deer corn. These fees were also expected to be paid in cash only, when hunters assumed all such fees were included in the comprehensive “hunting package” paid for in advance.
In addition, hunters that attempted to eat at the ranch found that only a fraction of the ranch’s advertised food menu was actually available to them.
In addition to the asset freeze, the attorney general requests civil penalties of up to $20,000 for each violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, as well as restitution to financially harmed hunters.
Texans who believe they have been deceived by similar fraudulent business practices may call the Office of the Attorney General’s toll-free complaint line at (800) 252-8011 or file a complaint online at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov.
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