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Indiana Fish-Hauler Facing Will County Criminal Case Says Illinois Conservation Cops ‘Strong-Arm You Like the Mafia’

The Indiana man says he's about done doing business in Illinois.

This is neither a fathead minnow nor a golden shiner. Credit: Joseph Hosey
This is neither a fathead minnow nor a golden shiner. Credit: Joseph Hosey
Phillip Traylor thought he was playing by the rules when he bought a fish-hauling company from the son of a deceased business associate three years ago.

He said he bought licenses and checked with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to make sure he was operating legally, but officials neglected to tell him of the proper requirements.

"They didn't do their job and they're going to fine me for something I didn't know about," said Traylor, 59.

Those fines were as high as $25,000, he said, but he negotiated them down to $4,000. Traylor faces a Will County charge of unlawfully importing a viral hemorrhagic septicemia-susceptible fish. He said he will plead guilty to get the reduced fine even though he believes he is innocent and can win in court.

"No jury would ever convict me," said Traylor, a Lowell, IN, pond-digger and taxidermist, and the proprietor of Realistic Bait LLC.

It was Traylor's bait business that landed him in hot water in Will County. He said he was given bad information by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. This problem was compounded by his confused wife neglecting to secure the proper credentials through an online application, he said, and led to undercover conservation police pulling over his truck after he drove into Illinois with a load of fish worth "hundreds" of dollars.

The conservation cops made Traylor drain his truck, he said, killing all the fish. He said police and prosecutors threatened to charge him with a felony but only filed misdemeanors against him and his company.

"It was like you were talking to the mafia," he said of his dealings with the law in Illinois.

"They strong-arm you like the mafia," he said.

Patch contacted Illinois Department of Natural Resources spokesman Chris Young about Traylor's case last week. Young said he would look into the matter but has yet to provide any information.

Traylor was charged with bringing disease-prone golden shiners and fathead minnows into Illinois. He said he has a few loyal customers in the state he does not want to leave high and dry, but aside from them he's done with the place.

"Illinois is (full of) crooks," he said. "They've been crooks forever."

Traylor believes he was targeted by a state-run scheme because "Illinois ran of money and started looking for places for money."

"I didn't do anything wrong," he said, "and I know it."

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