MONTEREY – On November 9, 2018, Vincent Joseph DePhilippis, 28, entered a plea of no contest to unlawfully possessing a mountain lion pelt and cultivating hundreds of cannabis plants without a license. DePhilippis was then sentenced to three years of informal probation with terms and conditions including a $5,002 fine, 240 hours of community service, a three- year hunting ban, a search and seizure waiver, and forfeiture of any seized wildlife.
On September 21, 2017, Monterey County Sheriff’s Office deputies and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) wardens served a search warrant at a private residence on Argyle Road. Law enforcement officers discovered 689 outdoor cannabis plants and questioned DePhilippis who was at the home at the time. He informed law enforcement officers that the property owner allowed him to live on the property free of charge in exchange for tending to the cannabis plants. Officers also discovered a mountain lion pelt inside DePhilippis’ bedroom, and a shucked abalone inside a freezer. Both items were seized as evidence and the cannabis plants were collected and destroyed.
“Mountain lions are protected under California law,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. “CDFW wardens work to protect California's valued wildlife resources, they also assist local law enforcement departments in illegal cannabis cultivation investigations due to the damage many cause to our state’s natural resources”
In 1990, California voters passed the California Wildlife Protection Act (Proposition 117) that designated the mountain lion as a “specially protected mammal,” making it unlawful to possess, transport, import, or sell any mountain lion or part or product thereof unless authorized by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Monterey County Sheriff’s Office deputies and California Department of Fish and Wildlife wardens investigated the unlawful cannabis cultivation operation. CDFW Warden and CSLEA-RPPOA Member Kaleb Eye investigated the wildlife crimes in this case.