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Couple reaches plea deal in sturgeon caviar investigation

FOND du LAC, Wis. (AP) — A Fond du Lac couple has reached a plea deal to settle charges that they illegally processed sturgeon eggs into caviar.

Mary and Victor Schneider were each charged Feb. 4 with being a party to misdemeanor egg bartering. According to court documents, they told wardens in January 2020 that sturgeon anglers would bring eggs to them for caviar processing and the couple would keep half the caviar as compensation.

WLUK-TV reported Thursday that the couple has reached a deal with prosecutors that calls for dismissing the charges if they cease caviar production, don’t commit any crimes and check in with court officials monthly for a year.

The couple was arrested as part of a sweeping investigation into sturgeon egg bartering around Lake Winnebago.

Fond du Lac County bartender Shawn Wendt faces two misdemeanor counts of unlawfully selling or bartering eggs. According to the criminal complaint, Wendt told a warden that people would bring him eggs, he would process them into caviar and then keep some to serve at the restaurant where he worked.

DNR sturgeon biologist Ryan Koenigs has been charged with obstructing the investigation in Calumet County and theft in Fond du Lac County, both misdemeanors. According to court documents, he told investigators DNR workers have been funneling eggs that spearers turned over for research to caviar processors in exchange for jars of the delicacy.

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