Gary McCabe recalls settling in to watch a mixed martial arts fight on television on the night of Dec. 8, 2012, when a truck pulled up to his house in Milford. Inside were several of his neighbors and a man who had been hanging around for the past couple of weekends – a man who claimed to be a hunter from Pennsylvania named Bill Fried.

The men encouraged McCabe to watch the fight with them at a friend’s house in nearby Greenfield. McCabe got in the truck. What he didn’t know was that Fried was actually an undercover game warden named Bill Livezey.

“Next thing I know, they are headed out toward Stud Mill Road, and I realized they were night hunting,” McCabe says. “I should have put my big-boy pants on and said, ‘Just stop right there,’ but I decided I’d just stay put and not participate.”

Nevertheless, McCabe – who says he’s never poached in his life and didn’t do so that night – was ultimately charged with nine violations.

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McCabe is among dozens of people who have contacted the Maine Sunday Telegram with tips and allegations against the Maine Warden Service’s undercover operations since May 8, when the newspaper published its investigation of a controversial two-year operation that Livezey conducted in Allagash. Most of those who came forward told similar stories about Livezey’s conduct of operations across the state, from islands off Jonesport to the hills straddling Oxford and York counties along the New Hampshire border. The tales are strikingly similar: They say Livezey exaggerated crimes, padded evidence, drank excessively on the job, provided alcohol to suspects, enticed people to commit hunting violations and committed wildlife violations himself – something that game wardens are allowed to do in Maine in the course of conducting investigations.

Seven of those people spoke on the record about what they witnessed when caught up in Livezey’s operations in Penobscot, Lincoln and Androscoggin counties. Two defense attorneys also contacted the newspaper about active cases connected to a recent operation in Washington County that they say has parallels with the one in Allagash.

“I’m a 67-year-old Maine resident and have been hunting since I was 12,” says Steven Juskewitch, a former prosecutor who practices law in Ellsworth and is representing a man charged in connection with one of Livezey’s operations. “My interactions with the wardens for the first 40 years were OK, but in the last five years something has changed. Now we’re being hunted.”

ALLEGATIONS AGAINST LIVEZEY

On May 8, the Maine Sunday Telegram published an investigation of Livezey’s Allagash operation. Over two years, the undercover game warden – pretending to be Bill Fried of Pennsylvania – befriended local residents and enticed them to commit wildlife crimes. The operation culminated with a massive 2014 raid that was filmed by a crew for the Animal Planet show “North Woods Law.” Local residents complained about what they say was an outsized operation considering the nature of the charges. They were perhaps most upset that the wardens had confiscated a 64-year-old woman’s home-canned peaches and, according to her, failed to return most of them.

After the story ran, numerous targets of another undercover operation in the York County town of Parsonsfield came forward with similar allegations. In both operations, targets of the raids accused Livezey of drinking excessively in their presence, plying suspected scofflaw hunters with alcohol before urging them to commit crimes – such as driving deer, shooting deer out of season and carrying a loaded gun in a car – and committing some of the offenses himself for which the subjects of his investigations were later prosecuted. Most of the subjects ultimately took plea bargains.

Livezey previously had been accused of the same kind of behavior in an undercover operation in Oxford County in 2003 and 2004, prompting a decision by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court that found his behavior may have been “repugnant” but did not rise to the level that the criminal charges stemming from his investigation needed to be dismissed.

Steve Juskewitch is a hunter and Ellsworth lawyer.

Steve Juskewitch is a hunter and Ellsworth lawyer.

“Just think in terms of the amount of time and resources put into some of these investigations compared to what was achieved,” says Walter McKee, an Augusta attorney who has represented clients in at least two other cases in which Livezey was involved. “Some people will say it’s worth it, but some people will say the money would be better spent in other kinds of investigations.”

Last year Livezey was involved in an undercover investigation on Great Wass Island in Washington County. Juskewitch and another attorney representing men accused in that case contacted the Maine Sunday Telegram separately to report that Livezey’s conduct was similar to the incidents in Allagash and Parsonsfield.

“Looking at the complaint, it alleges facts that are identical to facts laid out in the articles from the other counties,” says Daniel Pillegi of Ellsworth, who represents Andrew Beal of Beals, who faces 54 charges for events between October and December 2015. Court documents show a total of 10 men were charged in related cases.

Juskewitch, who was once deputy district attorney for Washington and Hancock counties, says Livezey was the investigator in the case, which includes five charges against his client, Farrell Beal, 66, of Beals, including night hunting and marijuana possession. His client and his hunting buddy, Juskewitch says, had quickly regarded Livezey as “nothing but trouble,” a man who constantly tried “to get us to shine lights or go night hunting or get us in trouble.”

The charges are inappropriate, the lawyer says.

“They never illuminated the field,” Juskewitch says, “but in fact Warden Livezey did light up the field.”

The warden service did not respond to requests to comment or be interviewed for this story. In fact, warden service officials refused to speak with a reporter for months, instead issuing terse answers to 24 written questions for the May 8 story and then declining to respond to further follow-up questions. After that story was published, the warden service and Gov. Paul LePage issued public statements condemning the newspaper reports.

Additionally, the warden service failed for months to provide public records to the newspaper, as required by law, and then inflated both the amount of time it would take to fulfill the requests as well as the cost of doing so. The Legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday with IFW Commissioner Chandler Woodcock; Col. Joel Wilkinson, head of the warden service; and Brenda Kielty, public records ombudsman at the state Attorney General’s Office to question them about the investigations and the public records requests.

CAUGHT UP IN A RAID

Gary McCabe’s family had been coming to their camp in Greenfield, 25 miles northeast of Bangor, from Long Island since his grandfather bought the place in the 1940s. In 2011, McCabe bought a year-round home in nearby Milford and moved there full-time.

If it wasn’t for Livezey, McCabe says, he never would have come into contact with the misdoings of a Penobscot County poaching ring on that December night in 2012.

He says he wishes he had told “Bill Fried” – Livezey – to stop the truck and let him out when he realized they were going night hunting. It’s illegal to hunt after dark in Maine, a misdemeanor punishable by at least three days in jail and a $1,000 fine on the first offense.

“It went from 8 o’clock to midnight, and Livezey is drinking and pulling beers out of the coolers for everyone. … He was drinking from the moment he pulled up at my house and all through the night,” McCabe recalls. “I was just sitting there not doing anything and just wishing this night would end.” When he finally returned home, McCabe was tired and shaken.

In the spring – after Livezey had completed his yearlong investigation – the three other men in the truck were charged with more than 100 mostly hunting-related charges, and nearly 50 other people were indicted on various charges, from driving under the influence to aggravated assault. McCabe was charged with seven hunting violation counts – including night and Sunday hunting, and illuminating wildlife, which is illegal as it causes deer and other species to stand still – plus two counts of fraudulently obtaining a resident hunting license.

McCabe says the charges were outrageous.

“I said, ‘No way.’ I had no weapon. I had no nothing. I never held a flashlight for anyone,” he says. “And all the charges were compounded, because Stud Mill Road crosses from Penobscot to Hancock County and they were out after midnight, so it became two days, and one of those days was a Sunday.”

The license charge was particularly irksome, as McCabe considered himself a Maine resident. He says a town clerk had sold him a resident license without seeing his birth certificate – a requisite second form of ID – because that record was impossible to obtain that fall. His hometown of Bay Shore, New York, had been flooded by Superstorm Sandy, records office and all.

McCabe, who says he’s never poached an animal, is dumbfounded that the wardens drew him into their investigation and threw the book at him. “I don’t understand the logic in that,” he says. “You can just make up stories to get somebody to get into a car?”

He ultimately pleaded to a single illuminating charge – and the license violation – because his legal bills were getting too high. But he says now that he wishes he had fought the charge. “I feel ashamed because I meet people in this small town and I feel like I have to explain all this,” he says. “It feels like the Scarlet Letter.”

DRINKING, SHOOTING IN THE DARK

Nathan Lee, who lives in the Lincoln County town of Whitefield, says he was shocked by the behavior of Pennsylvania hunter Bill Fried, who turned out to be Livezey.

Bill Livezey was the warden service's undercover agent.

Bill Livezey was the warden service’s undercover agent.

Lee says he felt sorry for the out-of-town hunter and took time off work during the 2011 duck season to hunt with him. When they got out of their car after spotting a wood duck in a river, Lee says he cautioned Livezey that in Maine you can’t shoot from the pavement. “He then walks right down the white line and shoots the duck right there,” Lee recalls. “And I said, ‘Dude, what are you doing?’ He says, ‘Don’t worry about it. Just get my dog and get my duck.’ I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ That’s just stupid and a line I’d never cross.”

Lee didn’t cross that line and wasn’t charged in the duck incident but says Livezey always insisted on trying to buy him a six-pack of beer by way of thanks. “I said, ‘No, I’m just doing this as a friend. You don’t have to buy me anything,’ ” Lee recalls. “Good thing, because otherwise he would have charged me for guiding without a license.”

Lee says Livezey was constantly “riding me and riding me” to go night hunting, which he refused to do, and to join him and the real targets of his investigation – Richard L. Potter of Jefferson and his then-girlfriend, Monique Moore – in hunts, which he finally did. Lee made the fourth member of the party, a fact that resulted in all three hunters being charged with driving deer, when large parties push deer in the direction of a shooter. “If we’d gone without Livezey, we wouldn’t have been breaking the law,” he says.

Lee says the undercover warden was “legitimately drunk at my house and driving home” and that the warden’s claim that he was dumping his beers out were false. (In the Allagash operation, Livezey claimed in his reports to have dumped his drinks.)

Lee was charged with two counts of driving deer, one of which was dismissed.

Potter, the central target of that investigation, admits to having poached deer. “I am not innocent. I had shot multiple deer in a season before,” he says. “I don’t mind taking responsibility for my actions – this is not me trying to get a ‘not guilty.’ It’s stopping these guys from doing what they did to me to someone else.”

By “these guys,” he means the warden service and specifically Livezey, who as “Bill Fried” befriended Potter in 2011.

Livezey visited Potter and Moore multiple times that year, sometimes staying for a week, he recalls. “The way he went about it: He made sure when he showed up he would bring his Bud Light every night,” he recalls, adding that he gave beer to Moore who, at 20, wasn’t old enough to drink legally.

“I stuck to my guns at first about not doing the stuff he wanted to do, but then I started drinking with him and got up the liquor courage, and he persisted until I went out night hunting with him,” he says. On the trips, he says, Livezey provided the vehicle, the gun and the spotlight. “He knew what was what and what it took to get us out: him getting us drink, driving us around, and letting us shoot deer at night.”

Potter says there were several situations where Livezey had tried to goad him to shoot deer and he had refused because the line of sight could have put a bullet on a trajectory to strike nearby homes. The warden, he says, was so gung-ho to get him to poach that he stopped thinking about public safety. “I knew the area, and I knew there were houses and you might be putting someone’s life at risk,” he says. “How is that justified? You don’t see cops going out and getting someone drunk and having them go shooting.”

A story about a Maine Warden Service undercover operation in Allagash, above, spurred similar stories from other areas of the state. The Legislature's Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday with key leaders to ask about the Allagash sting and about public records requests filed by the Maine Sunday Telegram.

A story about a Maine Warden Service undercover operation in Allagash, above, spurred similar stories from other areas of the state. The Legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday with key leaders to ask about the Allagash sting and about public records requests filed by the Maine Sunday Telegram. Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

A MASSIVE POACHING SPREE

Livezey hasn’t just posed as a hunter from Pennsylvania – he also posed as a hunter in Pennsylvania as part of an interstate operation to catch a Maine-based ring of poachers. Targets and witnesses there report that he gave alcohol to minors and pills to a man he allegedly knew was addicted to them.

In January 2011, the Maine Warden Service spearheaded an interstate undercover investigation that ended a massive poaching spree by half a dozen Mainers in northeastern Pennsylvania in which 32 deer were illegally shot. At the time, Petersen’s Hunting magazine reckoned it the fourth biggest poaching case in U.S. history. The targets were convicted of numerous charges in both states, and two served jail time in both states.

Livezey built the case while investigating an Androscoggin County family, again posing as Pennsylvania hunter Bill Fried. Four of those caught up in the case say he also used unethical and possibly illegal means to entice people to commit crimes, to add fictitious charges to a long list of those that were legitimate, giving drink to a minor and exploiting a target’s addiction to opioid painkillers.

Everett Tyler Leonard was at the center of the investigation and was, by his own admission, addicted to oxycodone, which had been previously prescribed to him for back pain.

“I’m no saint,” says Leonard, who has since been jailed for theft and disorderly conduct, “but I did about one-tenth the stuff I got charged with. Ninety percent of the time it was me and him, and he could make up anything he wanted and it was just his word and mine.”

After befriending Livezey in 2010, Leonard says he took him out hunting once during archery deer season, then went with his wife and two kids to a birthday party. Livezey, out with another man, called him at the party saying he had a deer and needed help getting it home. Only when he arrived, he says, did he discover they had shot the deer with a gun as well as an arrow. “I lost it with them, because they had put me in a situation I didn’t want to be in,” he recalls. “They charged me for that.”

Livezey returned in November, slept on Leonard’s couch and ate his food. “Then he thanks me and says, ‘Here’s 60 bucks,’ and I said, ‘I don’t want your money. That’s what friends are for,’ ” he says, but Livezey insisted, as the family had a 3-month-old baby. “What do I get for taking it? (I was charged with) guiding without a license.”

He also says he got seven night hunting charges for illuminating off the sides of roads – an event he says never happened – and for taking an oxycodone offered by Livezey. “He just pulled out an oxy – probably one of my own – and you can’t do that to an addict; you know I’m gonna take it. He knew.” Leonard checked into a rehab program the following month and was still enrolled there when the wardens arrested him in January 2011.

Leonard says Livezey “drank beer every day” and, while joining them on their hunting trip to Bradford County, Pennsylvania, took a 19- and 17-year-old night hunting. “He brought them beer, got them drunk and got them spotlighting deer,” he says.

Brendon Desmarais, the 17-year-old, confirmed that Livezey had given him drinks. “A couple of nights there he brought me alcohol at one of the stores in Bradford and smoked weed with me,” he recalls. “And he kind of forced my friends to shoot at deer. He said, ‘Just do it; it’s not bad.’ … I would never have done it otherwise.”

His father, Philip Desmarais, is still angry about the warden’s behavior. “My son was a juvenile, and he supplied him alcohol and smoked marijuana with him and enticed him to shoot animals that were out of season and gave him the gun to do it,” he says. “He was enticing all these young guys.”

Leonard’s father, Everett H. Leonard, the former police chief of Mechanic Falls, pleaded guilty to multiple violations. He died of cancer in 2014, but his ex-wife and Tyler Leonard’s mother, Laura Leonard, says none of them felt they had any choice. “They said you can’t fight it, that they have all the authority and you can’t fight them,” she recalls. “Tyler never got to say his side of the story in the press or in court.”

“I don’t have anything bad to say about the local wardens,” she adds. “But their undercover operations aren’t good. How many times do you watch a guy rob a bank before you stop him?”