PARIS – Another hunter involved in a Nov. 21, 2015, incident on Stock Farm Road has been indicted by an Oxford County grand jury on charges of fraudulently obtaining a hunting license and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person.

Stephen Bean, 55, of West Paris is the third hunter among a group of four to be indicted following an investigation by the Maine Warden Service in response to complaints of trespassing in the area.

Wardens also confiscated two firearms from Bean’s residence, including a 12-gauge shotgun and .270-caliber rifle, according to Sgt. Kris Barboza with the Warden Service.

Barboza also confirmed the U.S. Attorney’s Office had shown interest in the case because providing firearms to a prohibited person is against federal law.

The string of indictments has also prompted officials and state lawmakers to consider possible changes to Maine’s regulations and laws in order to better prevent those prohibited from having firearms from being able to still apply for and receive a Maine firearms hunting license.

According to Maine’s criminal records database, Bean was convicted on the felony charge of operating after habitual offender revocation in 2006, after which he was barred from possessing a firearm. He was also convicted of operating under the influence in 2002 and of assault in 1992, both misdemeanors.

A check of Bean’s driving history shows a total of five OUI convictions, according to records available with the Maine Department of Motor Vehicles.

According to state records, Stephen Bean was also convicted of misdemeanor assault in 1992 and obstructing government administration in 1984.

Bean’s younger brother Andrew Bean, 51, was also indicted by an Oxford County grand jury in December on charges of fraudulently obtaining a hunting license, criminal operating under the influence and a charge of being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm. 

Also indicted in December was David Foster, 39 of South Paris, on charges of possessing a fraudulently obtained hunting license and possessing a firearm by a prohibited person.

The firearms and hunting charges against all three men stem from the same incident. 

Andrew Bean was also indicted by the most recent Oxford County grand jury on a second criminal OUI charge that stemmed from an arrest Dec. 20, 2015, after he posted bail on the weapons charge. In the most recent indictment, Bean has also been charged with illegally attaching plates and violating conditions of release.

The Warden Service again arrested Andrew Bean four days later, on Nov. 25, charging him with being in violation of condition of release after he was found at his home under the influence of alcohol and in possession of alcohol, according to a report filed by Warden Josh Smith.

Smith wrote that wardens were performing a trespass enforcement detail on Nov. 21 in response to complaints by Bean’s neighbors, including Troy Ripley, when Warden Tony Gray arrested Andrew Bean for OUI.

In 2006, Ripley’s 18-year-old daughter, Megan Ripley, was shot and killed in a fatal hunting incident, and Andrew Bean’s other brother, Timothy Bean, was charged and pleaded guilty to manslaughter, admitting he had mistaken Megan Ripley for a deer when he pulled the trigger on the muzzle-loading gun he was using.

“In the years since the fatal hunting incident on the Ripley property, the Bean family has continued to ignore no trespassing signs and warnings from Troy Ripley and they continue to hunt across his land and antagonize his family,” Smith wrote in his report.

During the Nov. 21 arrest, the wardens found Andrew Bean was also in possession of a 12-gauge shotgun and had illegally obtained a Maine resident hunting license, according to Smith’s report.

Andrew Bean remains in custody at the Cumberland County Jail in Portland on $10,000 cash bail.

The incident has prompted concern from state officials, including the commissioner of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Chandler Woodcock.

Earlier this month, Woodcock said he was looking into the loophole that allows a person prohibited from possessing a firearm under state and federal law to still apply for and receive a Maine firearms hunting license, by falsifying their application. While Woodcock said applicants who falsify a hunting license application already face additional criminal charges, the state would like to find a better way to protect against the practice.

Under the state’s current system, a hunting license applicant’s felony status is based largely on an honor system because the state does not cross-reference hunting license applications with the state’s criminal background check system or the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check system, that is used by licensed firearms dealers when they sell firearms.

Woodcock and Rep. Skip Herrick, R-Paris, who is a former Oxford County sheriff, said earlier this month they were looking at both possible changes to state law or changes to administrative rules that govern hunting licenses in order to prevent those prohibited from having firearms from being able to easily obtain a fraudulent hunting license in Maine.

Herrick said barring an effective administrative change he would consider bringing a bill to change state law in the next legislative session, which starts in January 2017.

David Trahan, the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, the state’s largest hunting and gun-rights organization, said they would look carefully at any proposed changes to hunting laws in Maine.

“We are all for keeping felons from getting hunting licenses,” Trahan said, “but we would be concerned if there was a move to go to NICs-type background check system. That could be very cumbersome, costly and time-consuming and it may only discourage people from going hunting.”  

Trahan said he believes the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife could likely find a way to tighten its system for issuing hunting licenses without a law change.

[email protected]