Utah Men Charged in BLM Mustang Sale Scheme

Two Utah men are facing multiple federal charges in connection with a scheme to purchase wild horses from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) then sell the animals to horsemeat processors in Mexico.

Prospective clients of the BLM's Wild Horse and Burro Adoption Program must demonstrate that they have not been convicted of animal cruelty violations and can provide appropriate care and facilities in a home within the United States. Adoptions of the formerly wild horses don't become final for one year, during which time BLM personnel may conduct home visits to confirm the animal is receiving appropriate care.

On Aug. 5, the BLM seized 47 horses in Helper, Utah. Another 17 animals were later confiscated from a location in Willard, Utah. The confiscated Mustangs were relocated to the agency's facility in Herriman, Utah.

According to an indictment handed down on Sept. 14 in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City, Robert Wilford Capson and Dennis Kay Kunz are charged with four counts of wire fraud, two counts of false statements, and one count of aiding or abetting.

Department of Justice Public Information Officer Melodie Rydalch said that the indictment alleges that Capson and Kunz worked together to defraud the BLM and induce the agency to sell them 64 horses.

"Capson represented himself as a purchaser who would use the wild horses to breed rodeo stock in Ibapah, Utah," Rydalch said. "In reality, according to the indictment, the men intended to send the wild horses to Texas to resell them for slaughter in Mexico."

According to the indictment, the men allegedly committed wire fraud when they used fax and email messages to make fraudulent statements that they would not resell the mustangs for the purpose of having them slaughtered and processed into commercial products, Rydalch said.

"All counts relate to these messages which include a questionnaire and bill of sale," Rydalch said.

Capson was unavailable for comment.

Donna Kunz, wife of Dennis Kunz said the allegations are untrue.

"It's a set-up," Kunz said. "We didn't own the horses. Robert Capson owned the horses. He was driving our truck."

Kunz said the horses were intended for sale, but not for processing purposes: "The horses were intended for sale in Mexico to be used as Charro (Mexican rodeo) horses, and there's someone there who has zebras and since these were all mares, he wanted them to breed with his zebras."

A summons will be issued for Capson and Kunz to appear in court on the charges, Rydalch said.

If convicted, they could face up to five years in prison for the false statement counts, and up to 20 years on the wire fraud charges.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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