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      Illegal wildlife operation uncovered by wildlife officers

      SEARCY (KATV) - Wildlifeofficers with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission today arrested a WhiteCounty couple on several wildlife violations. The pair allegedly used wildanimals, such as deer, to make tamales in their roadside stand.

      Fred ThomasAtkins III, 49, and his wife Betty Louise Williams, 28, were arrested at theirtamale stand on Arkansas Highway 16 between Searcy and Pangburn. The couple wasissued citations for several game violations including buying and sellingwildlife.

      Thesix-week investigation targeted the couple after undercover wildlife officerssold several deer to Atkins. The wildlife officers also purchased tamalessuspected of being made with deer meat. Officers from the White CountySheriff's Office and investigators with the Central Arkansas Drug Task Force,along with the AGFC, were involved in the investigation.

      Capt.Bill Howell of the AGFC said the individuals were gathering as many illegaldeer as they could get. "It was not only the wildlife violations that we wereconcerned about, but also the health concerns. It was a great team effort byseveral agencies to protect Arkansas's valuable natural resources and allow thepublic to safely enjoy them," Howell said.

      If convicted, Atkins and Williams would face fines up to $5,000 oneach count and up to a year in jail. The two were taken to the White CountyDetention Center in Searcy.