A state legislator from Friendship has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate law enforcement practices used in undercover sting operations conducted by the Maine Warden Service.

Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos, an independent, said he filed the request after learning about dozens of allegations of “misconduct and entrapment” on the part of the warden service during sting operations targeting poaching and other fish-and-game infractions in Allagash and other areas of the state. Among the allegations: that an undercover agent drank alcohol in the presence of targets of the stings, enticed them to drink and commit wildlife crimes, and committed wildlife violations himself.

“We believe that the undercover and entrapment endeavors of the Maine Warden Service violated the accepted norms of law enforcement and criminal proceedings,” Evangelos’ request says.

He provided a copy of the investigation request along with statements signed by dozens of supporters, including several Mainers who were targeted in the controversial undercover operations. The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram investigated the Allagash sting and published a report titled “North Woods Lawless.”

Evangelos said in a telephone interview that he sent the request Thursday morning to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights and Police Misconduct Division and expected it to arrive Friday.

“Maybe it’s a longshot, maybe it is not. All I know is we are not getting any accountability for what happened at the state level,” Evangelos said.

The newspaper’s six-month investigation detailed allegations that a game warden padded evidence, provided alcohol to people who were being investigated and invented events that did not occur during a two-year undercover operation in Allagash that resulted in fines for wildlife law and other violations and short jail terms for several individuals. The undercover agent, Bill Livezey, provided guns, ammunition, transportation and a searchlight to one target of the sting and shot a deer to encourage the subject to poach, the story found.

OPERATION CRITICIZED, DEFENDED

The warden service’s investigation culminated in a raid that was filmed for the “North Woods Law” television series.

“While the focus of this complaint is to examine the undercover operations and enforcement practices of the warden service, we also request that federal authorities examine whether the warden service violated the rights of citizens in an effort to produce ‘good’ entertainment,” Evangelos’ investigation request states.

Local residents complained about what they say was an outsized operation considering the nature of the charges.

One Allagash man was charged with 38 offenses ranging from night hunting and possession of antlerless deer to shooting from a motor vehicle, according to a document filed with Evangelos’ complaint. He said it’s an example of the warden service “piling on” charges to generate revenues.

The warden service has defended its investigation and subsequent raid, and said the “North Woods Lawless” investigation contained “many inaccuracies.”

After the newspaper’s story ran, numerous targets of another undercover operation in the York County town of Parsonsfield came forward with similar allegations. Most of the subjects of both the Allagash and Parsonsfield investigations ultimately accepted plea bargains.

The Mainers identified in the Evangelos filing say they are willing to speak with federal authorities. His filing also contains a statement of support from Steven A. Juskewitch, a former deputy district attorney for Hancock and Washington counties who is now a criminal defense lawyer.

Evangelos asks the Justice Department to intervene and order the warden service to change its undercover law enforcement practices. He requests that the federal government put the state agency under review or supervision until it complies.

In addition, the 63-year-old legislator suggests that if the Justice Department determines misconduct occurred, that it take steps to vacate all prosecutions and convictions that resulted from the applicable stings.

MORE RESIDENTS ALLEGE MISCONDUCT

Besides the Allagash and Parsonsfield stings, other Mainers have come forward to describe similar undercover operations in Penobscot, Lincoln, Washington and Androscoggin counties.

A letter signed by 29 residents from the towns of Jonesport and Beals Island, provided by Evangelos, accuses Livezey of providing alcohol to a minor and encouraging those under the influence of alcohol to drink further and to hunt illegally. They claim the warden service extended its investigation for three years “in order to increase the number of charges against citizens, and in turn increase the potential fines it might receive.”

“This is simply a broad summary of our community’s nightmare, brought about by an out-of-control officer and law enforcement agency,” the signees wrote.

This week, Livezey filed a complaint with the House Ethics Committee seeking an investigation into the conduct of Rep. John Martin, D-Eagle Lake. The complaint says Martin tried to influence the outcome of the sting operation in Allagash and that Martin helped fabricate a news story in collaboration with a Press Herald/Telegram reporter.

Livezey did not respond to a callback request left on his cellphone, and Cpl. John MacDonald, the warden service spokesman, did not respond to requests for comment Thursday evening.

Although Evangelos, a member of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee, is the only legislator to support an investigation by the Justice Department, he said he had no choice after people from across the state asked him for help.

“I am worried about the people whose lives have been turned upside down by this,” he said.

Evangelos said he did not seek legal assistance from the Maine Attorney General’s Office because he does not believe that office can be objective.

“I have zero faith in the Maine Attorney General’s Office,” Evangelos said. “The state of Maine is incapable of investigating itself.”

Timothy Feeley, spokesman for the AG’s Office, said in an emailed statement Thursday evening that “if Rep. Evangelos has documentation other than what has been discussed in the press and litigated in the courts, we would be happy to review it, and that review would be by someone other than an attorney who represents the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.”

Evangelos said he has no political motivation for filing the brief. He has chosen not to seek re-election this fall.