CDFW News | Ventura County Assistant District Attorney Named 2021 Wildlife Prosecutor of the Year
Ventura County Assistant District Attorney Named 2021 Wildlife Prosecutor of the Year
Ventura County Senior Assistant District Attorney (SDDA) Karen Wold has been named the 2021 Wildlife Prosecutor of the Year, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and California Fish and Game announced this week. Commission.
“Senior Assistant Deputy Karen Wold has taken several complicated investigations by CDFW Wildlife Officers and turned them into successful prosecutions, making it clear that poaching and pollution crimes will not be tolerated in the county of Ventura,” said David Bess, deputy director of CDFW and head of the Enforcement Division.
SDDA Karen Wold and her team of Consumer and Environmental Protection Unit investigators have been valuable partners and a trusted resource for wildlife officers. For years, Wold has led the charge to hold accountable poaching and pollution offenders in Ventura County through effective prosecution and assessment of criminal and civil penalties. These penalties range from fines, permanent and temporary injunctions, imprisonment, cost recovery, educational signage, and the purchase of supplies and equipment to help various agencies continue to protect the natural resources of the State.
“We are very proud of the accomplishments of Deputy District Chief Prosecutor Karen Wold and are grateful to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for their collaboration and recognition of her work,” said District Attorney Erik Nasarenko. Ventura County. “Karen is a dedicated prosecutor – she works hard every day to enforce the laws that protect the environment and wildlife in our beautiful state.”
Over the years, the Consumer and Environmental Protection Unit has been responsible for securing favorable provisions against polluting companies in Ventura County. Most notably, a 2016 civil settlement against Crimson Pipeline totaled nearly $1.6 million in penalties, costs, and restitution for natural resource damage.
More recently, however, SDDA Wold was instrumental in securing a settlement against a local commercial fishing vessel operator who allowed toxic substances to spill into Channel Islands harbor waters. In June 2021, wildlife officers from the patrol boat Swordfish observed a commercial squid seiner leaving the Port of Ventura after completing an offload of squid from the market. Officers watched the ship, knowing that they were most likely heading out of port to drain excess water from their tank, known as “stick water”. Sticky water is harmful to aquatic life due to its ability to create a low oxygen environment and create increased amounts of deadly ammonia. Due to its harmful nature to fish, commercial fishermen are required to discard it outside of state waters, defined at least three miles offshore.
After boarding the vessel and conducting interviews, officers determined that the vessel dumped the toxic water just outside the breakwater and well within state water limits. The case was assigned to SDDA Wold and his team, and they recently settled the case for a civil penalty of $20,000. This penalty included earmarked funding for educational signage inside the port, specifically at the commercial squid processing wharf, which discusses regulations and the harmful nature of stick water.
In February 2021, wildlife officers from the CDFW Office of Spill Prevention and Response responded to reports of excessive amounts of paint debris covering nearby vessels and rocks along the pier. After investigation, officers determined that a local commercial fishing vessel operator was sandblasting its deck and hull without any containment configuration. The case was assigned to SDDA Wold and his team, and they quickly set to work to reach a settlement. In the end, the offender agreed to pay $20,000 in fines, including nearly $15,000 for oil spill response equipment.
SDDA Wold and his team not only assist in marine environmental prosecutions, but they also step in to assist with some of the most egregious fish and wildlife crimes that take place in Ventura County. In July 2019, wildlife officers investigated the murder of a collared mountain lion in the Simi Hills of Ventura County. The investigation revealed that a local college employee shot and killed a mountain lion that was being monitored via a GPS collar. After killing the lion, the suspect cut off the GPS collar to conceal his crime. He then drove the necklace and the lion carcass to two different locations and dumped them several miles from the kill site. Wold pursued this case with the utmost seriousness and after several meetings, the suspect finally pleaded guilty to the charge of unlawfully killing a mountain lion and was sentenced to 30 days in prison, 30 days in a placement program at outside, 240 hours of community service at a local animal shelter and three years of summary probation.
“Senior Deputy DA Wold exemplifies the type of prosecutor who can lead a poaching or pollution crime investigation into a successful prosecution that not only holds the offender accountable, but serves as a warning to others that they also will be held accountable for similar violations,” said Commission Chair Samantha Murray. “The Commission created this award for prosecutors like Wold to recognize good work and set an example for other prosecutors.”
CDFW is proud of the partnership established over years of working with SDDA Wold and grateful for its leadership in protecting Ventura County’s natural resources.
Deputy Chief Eric Kord, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (619) 921-5959
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 212-7352