This was a sting operation that Janice Peck says stung too close to home.
The Utah Division of Wildlife assigned her husband, Randal, and a female agent to set up house and pose as lovers in order to bring down a poaching operation.But the "cloak-and-dagger deal," she says, also took down a family with two college-age children -- all for the sake of a few elk and moose.
"You just don't put a woman and man together in that kind of environment and expect nothing to happen," Janice Peck said, calling the state the "biggest culprit" in the breakup of her 23-year marriage.
The undercover couple fell in love, the Pecks divorced, and Janice Peck sued the division and agent Jodi Becker for alienation of affection. On Friday the suit was settled, with Janice Peck getting the equity the former couple had in their home, according to Becker, who is now married to Randal Peck.
The state agency went overboard, Janice Peck claimed, by assigning the fish-and-game officers to an extended "James Bond" mission against a small band of gritty poachers in the remote Uinta Mountains of northern Utah.
Peck and Becker openly hugged, kissed and shared the same bed in a camping trailer over six months while befriending the group.
The state argued it had no responsibility for the romance that took root in a beat-up, 1963 trailer parked at Mud Lake. A judge agreed and dropped the agency from the lawsuit.
Becker said Saturday that she was glad to have the lawsuit resolved.
"It's a huge relief. Its just ludicrous that this thing has been blown into this proportion," said Becker, who married Randal Peck, 49, three years ago. "I met him at work and we got married, and his ex-wife decided to try to make some money off it. I didn't hold a gun to the man's head."
Becker, 33, kept her job even as her new husband was forced to retire, and the couple are raising a daughter.
She counts herself unlucky to live in Utah, one of the few states that still allows legal claims for alienation of affection -- a common-law throwback to a time when women were considered the property of men that is now being used in reverse.
State attorneys say that Janice Peck, 50, should have taken up any legal cause for betrayal in her 1995 divorce, which was settled amicably.
For his part, Randal Peck was pressured to retire with a pension "for bringing discredit on the agency," said J. Wesley Robinson, an assistant attorney general.
Robert F. Elswood, the division's law enforcement chief, said pairing undercover agents as intimate couples is a common practice even for fish-and-game officers -- "and we don't expect them to have affairs."
The sting led to as many as nine convictions, including the ring's leader, Eugene "Shorty" Banks. Banks had been suspected of poaching since the 1970s, Elswood said.
But Peck, state officials say, carried his assignment too far.
"The sleeping arrangements were never discussed. There are two bunks in that trailer at opposite ends. Randy decided they had to sleep together to maintain their cover," Robinson said. "We don't buy that."
The way Peck explained it in a pretrial deposition, the poachers could have barged into their camp trailer any time. Locking the door only raised suspicions, and the poachers had even accused Peck of being an undercover game officer.
"They were suspicious about almost anything," Peck said in the deposition. "I was portraying Jodi as my girlfriend. We both felt it would be tough to explain why she may be in the front bunk and I'd be in the back bunk."
It didn't take long for genuine romance to blossom. The agents, according to his testimony, started having sex the second weekend they shared the trailer.
Before the assignment started, Peck told his wife he'd be sharing the trailer with a female agent. But he didn't tell her he would be sharing a bed with Becker for many weekends and some weekdays over six months.
Although Peck has accepted responsibility for the breakup of his marriage, his ex-wife isn't satisfied. She also blames the "irresponsible" wildlife agency and officer Becker.
"If she didn't intend to break up this marriage, I'd like to know what she was trying to do," said Janice Peck.