In Wisconsin, 3 more charged in sturgeon caviar investigation

The sturgeon is a massive, bony fish that can grow up to 2 meters long.

Madison, Wis. – Prosecutors have charged three Fond du Lac County residents in a major investigation into the illegal trade of sturgeon caviar around Lake Winnebago.

According to online court records, Sean Wendt, 51, of Oakfield, was arrested on the 5th. February was charged with two felony counts of illegally selling or exchanging eggs. If convicted, he risks a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. Wendt’s attorney is not named in the files, and he did not immediately respond to a message left at Wendt’s Lakefront Restaurant in Van Dyne, where he was behind the bar.

According to the criminal complaint, Wendt was interviewed by an NRA probation officer in January 2020 as part of an investigation into the processing of sturgeon caviar at the restaurant. State and federal laws prohibit the sale, trade or exchange of sturgeon caviar.

Wendt told the regulator that he has been processing sturgeon eggs into caviar for 15 years. He said people brought him eggs, he made caviar out of them and saved a few for himself to serve in the restaurant. He refused to pay for the eggs or make any prior arrangements as to how much caviar he would keep as compensation.

Mary, 86, and Victor Schneider, 88, of Fond du Lac, were accused of exchanging eggs every Thursday. According to court documents, the guardians were notified in January 2020 that the sturgeon fishermen would be bringing eggs to be processed and that the couple would be leaving half of the eggs as compensation. None of them are in the online court records.

According to court documents, they told investigators that former NPR police chief Todd Schaller had stopped by their home to get caviar. Schaller left the DNR in January 2020. A spokeswoman for the ministry, Sarah Hoye, declined comment, saying the agency does not comment on ongoing investigations.

On Thursday, prosecutors accused the DNR’s top jammer expert, Ryan Koenigs, of obstructing the investigation.

He told investigators this month that DNR employees were pumping eggs that Speer gave to caviar processors for research purposes in exchange for boxes of meat products for personal use. According to court documents, he first denied knowing about MNR employees’ involvement in January 2020.