Breaking News

Decade-long case ends in $20,000 fine

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

A nearly 10-year-old case involving unauthorized guiding services for hunting near Grande Cache came to an end with guilty pleas entered on all counts.

Due to warrants out for his arrest, Robert Barthelmess, a U.S. citizen and resident of Montana, was not present as he was convicted in Hinton Provincial court on Jan. 15.

His counsel accepted $20,000 in fines on his behalf, as well as a 10-year ban from outfitting, guiding, hunting, or accompanying anyone hunting in Alberta.

The court also ordered that $17,500 of the fine amount be directed to the Forensic and DNA Research Program in support of future conservation and enforcement efforts undertaken by the Alberta Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Branch.

Barthelmess was convicted of two counts of providing guiding services to four unknowing American clients without being a licensed outfitter-guide in 2009 and 2010. Prior to 2009, Barthelmess operated a hunting outfitter-guide service called Pinehills Outfitters as a Canadian citizen before his residency was revoked by the federal government.

Barthelmess continued providing guiding services and hunting big game without a valid outfitter-guide permit throughout the 2009 and 2010 hunting seasons.

“He continued to book and contract hunts, accept money, and provide guiding services to clients as he had always done,” read notes from Wildlife officer Kelly Moran, one of the arresting officers.

Barthelmess transferred the commercial allocated hunting licenses to another person from Grande Cache to make it appear as if a new outfitter-guide had taken over the business. However, that new person didn’t have anything to do with the business and acted under the direction of Barthelmess.

In response to a public complaint, officers attended the Pinehills Outfitters camp on Sept. 23, 2010 and inspected two bull elk that were killed by hunting clients. 

Moran determined that Barthelmess and his clients had agreed to lie about the locations they were killed, if asked, but later provided truthful statements.

It was determined one elk was hunted in a zone without a license, and one with an unlicensed guide.

Barthelmess plead guilty to four counts under the Wildlife Act in relation to the elk in Grande Prairie Provincial court on Sept. 24, 2010 and was fined $12,000 and suspended from hunting for four years.

The two clients also plead guilty for their role and were fined $3,000, suspended from hunting, and had the elk and the rifle forfeited to the Crown.

Six days later, Barthelmess was arrested by the RCMP and Fish and Wildlife officers for Wildlife Act offences while operating an off-highway vehicle with a client near the camp.

He was charged and released on $10,000 bail but his client’s hunting licenses, cheques from clients, and an OHV Polaris side by side were seized.

Barthelmess failed to attend court in November 2011 for the charges from that arrest on Sept. 30, 2010.

Additional charges were sworn against him after interviewing five more American hunters in relation to illegally contracted and conducted hunts in 2009. Twenty-four outstanding charges against Barthelmess remained in arrest warrant status in Alberta from 2011 until his guilty pleas were entered on Jan. 5, 2020.

Moran was in court on Jan. 15 to see the case through to the end, almost 10 years after the initial arrest, making it the longest-running case of his career.