Three Las Vegas men were accused of illegally killing dozens of animals in a poaching ring, including protected ducks under the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act, according to the Nevada Department of Wildlife officials Nov. 10.

36-year-old Adrian Acevedo-Hernandez and 31-year-olds Jose Luis Montufar-Canales and J. Nemias Reyes Marin are the men accused of the poaching.

Hernandez is accused of being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm, as well as violating the federal bird protection law.

Canales and Marin have received firearm violation charges. The investigation began nearly two years ago. Officials were aided by tips and pictures posted on Facebook and other social media websites.

Nevada chief game warden Tyler Turnipseed released in the agency’s first public statement last Monday, “We followed one lead into another in what seemed to be a bottomless supply of wildlife crime.”

In July, a federal jury in Las Vegas indicted the men, which remains under seal. The trial originally was scheduled for this week in Las Vegas, but U.S. District Court judge James Mahan rescheduled it for Dec. 31.

The state investigation found that the three individuals used “false information to unlawfully apply for resident hunting licenses and tags,” according to game warden Cameron Waithman in the the Associated Press release. The state turned the case over the the federal agency after the three men were convicted on state misdemeanors in Churchill, Elko and Lincoln Counties earlier this year.

More than a half-dozen firearms and ammunition were recovered with investigators’ search warrants, including butchering tools, deer meat and parts, Waithman said.

In last Monday’s release, Waithman said, “Some of it I’m sure they ate and some of it was just the thrill of killing – what we call ‘thrill kills.’”

Although Waithman could not say how many animals were killed illegally, not wanting to jeopardize the federal part of the case, he said, “but it’s a lot.”

Some of the fowl that were retrieved included a morning dove, three green-winged teal ducks, and an American widgeon duck, all protected under the federal act.

Last year, 30-year-old Jose Manuel Ortega-Torres was arrested on a charge of unlawful possession of two mule deer killed May of last year, on a farm near Hiko, which sparked the query, said NDOW spokesman Edwin Lygar.

“We never considered him (Ortega-Torres) part of the ring,” Lygar said Nov. 10. “The other three guys we felt were systematically violating wildlife laws.”

Judge Mahan granted a request for delay that was filed on behalf of Hernandez by his federal public defender Rene Valladareas, so that the men’s lawyers have time to prepare a proper defense. The other men’s lawyers soon filed requests as well. The release said none of the lawyers for the defendants immediately responded for comment.