For 16 days or so each February, fisherman are permitted to catch sturgeon in Wisconsin's Lake Winnebago system, with each one they catch registered at a state-run station. Inspectors will also take the egg-filled reproductive glands from adult female sturgeon in order to study them. Now, allegations of a caviar bartering scheme have emerged, in which eggs supposedly intended for research instead landed in the hands of businesses that processed the eggs into caviar, which can sell for upwards of $100 an ounce. In return the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources employees who were allegedly involved got free caviar, and prosecutors have pointed a finger at the biologist who oversees the state’s sturgeon spearing season.
Ryan Koenigs, 36, was charged last week with obstructing an investigation by a conservation warden, which the AP reports is punishable by up to nine months in jail. Prosecutors allege Koenigs, who has been put on administrative leave, lied about the bartering scheme and is accused of being on the receiving end of at least $20,000 in caviar, reports the New York Times. The investigation began in 2017, and in January 2020 Koenigs was asked by investigators why workers at one registration station were allegedly seen putting eggs in a cooler belonging to a caviar processor. Koenigs said he didn't know, didn't know the processor, and had never called them, though phone records showed otherwise. Last week he allegedly admitted to taking eggs to processors after research rather than throwing them away as required and accepting jars of caviar in return. The complaint said his deception caused "hundreds" of hours of extra investigative work. (Read more weird crimes stories.)