Chronicles of 2011
Burglary Suspect Arrested
Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area • January 2011
On January 19, 2011, Matthew P. Trentacosta was charged in federal court with two counts of theft from properties within Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. The thefts occurred in June and July of 2010 at the park's maintenance facility, the superintendent's residence, and at the Cliff Park Inn and associated golf course. The inn and golf course are National Park Service properties leased to and operated by a concessionaire. US Park Rangers of Delaware Water Gap and Special Agents with the Investigative Services Branch (ISB) conducted the investigation. The value of stolen property was placed at nearly $60,000. Trentacosta was remanded into federal custody until disposition of the case.
Man Indicted for Theft of Rifles
Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site • February 2011
During a break-in in September of 2010, nine historic replica rifles were stolen from Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site. Two buffalo hides were taken from nearby Boggsville Historic Site during another break-in on the same day. US Park Rangers of Bent's Old Fort and Special Agents with the Investigative Services Branch conducted an investigation, generating a tip from a concerned citizen who had information about the stolen items. Investigators identified a suspect and subsequently indicted them man in federal court on two counts of possession of stolen United States property, and 14 other gun violations. As the investigation continued, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Otero County Sheriff's Office, and Bent County Sheriff's Office assisted. Investigators were able to make undercover purchases of various weapons, and two other National Park Service guns were recovered when local hikers in the La Junta area found rifles wrapped inside a tarp and stashed under a bush. If convicted, the man faces up to 10 years in federal prison for each charge. The superintendent of Bent's Old Fort expressed sincere thanks to the agencies involved in the investigation. Their collaboration and professionalism were credited with the quick resolution of the case. "We are grateful," the superintendent said, "for the dedication of the investigators, for the good citizen who stepped forward with the original tip, and for the public's support during the investigation."
Registered Sex Offender Convicted of Child Pornography as a Result of NPS Cultural Resource Investigation
Various Public Lands • February 2011
US Park Rangers of Bandelier National Monument received information in July of 2009 about an individual who allegedly stole natural and cultural resources from various National Park Service (NPS) sites. Special Agents with the Investigative Services Branch (ISB) assisted with the ensuing investigation. Investigators determined that multiple NPS sites were affected, and in September of 2009 they served a search warrant at the home of the man suspected of the looting. During the service of the warrant, investigators seized a computer in the residence. Analysis of its contents revealed that it contained images and videos of child pornography. The homeowner's son, a registered sex offender, was living in the residence at the time and was found to be responsible for the child exploitation material. William S. Smith, Jr. pleaded guilty on February 7, 2011 to Receipt of Child Pornography. He was sentenced on May 16, 2011 to serve 5 years in federal prison followed by 5 years of supervised release.
Juvenile Resident Convicted as an Adult for Aggravated Assault and Robbery
Grand Canyon National Park • March 2011
On November 1, 2010, Grand Canyon Regional Communications Center received a 911 call from a disoriented victim of an assault that occurred near the Grand Canyon Recreation Center. US Park Rangers responded and located the victim at a nearby concessionaire dormitory. The assault victim had been attacked in the woods, kicked repeatedly in the face, and had his property stolen. He suffered significant facial trauma and was covered in blood. A park ambulance transported him to the area hospital where he was admitted with several facial bone fractures as well as a concussion. A Special Agent with the Investigative Services Branch (ISB) was requested to assist with the investigation, which led to the arrest of a juvenile park resident. Due to the nature of the offense and the suspect's prior criminal history, he was charged as an adult in Arizona Superior Court. The accused pleaded guilty on March 24, 2011 to aggravated assault and robbery - both felonies. He will serve a year in federal prison followed by three years probation.
Man Pleads Guilty to Murder
Blue Ridge Parkway • March 2011
While watching the sunset on April 6, 2010 at Rock Point Overlook along the Blue Ridge Parkway, a man and woman were attacked by another man with a shotgun. Though both victims initially survived the attack, the man later died; he was 27 years old. The surviving victim was able to give investigators a description of the attacker. Special Agents with the Investigative Services Branch (ISB), US Park Rangers of the parkway, officers with the Augusta County Sheriff's Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Exposives (ATF), US Forest Service officers, US Park Police officers, and Virginia State Troopers responded and investigated the incident. An anonymous tip via Crime Stoppers was instrumental in identifying and locating the person who committed the attack. Ralph L. Jackson, age 57, was taken into custody and later pleaded guilty to premeditated murder by shooting with a firearm, intent to commit murder, using and discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, and using and discharging a firearm during and in relation to murder. Pursuant to the plea agreement, Jackson agreed to a life sentence in federal prison for murder, and to a term of federal incarceration within sentencing guidelines for the remaining charges. Formal sentencing is scheduled to take place on June 9, 2011. The case was prosecuted by the US Attorney's Office of Augusta County.
Park Resident Convicted of Receipt of Child Pornography
Grand Canyon National Park • March 2011
US Park Rangers of Grand Canyon National Park responded on March 6, 2010 to the Bright Angel Lodge for a cell phone found containing images of child pornography. While they were en route, a man claimed ownership of the phone and collected it from lodge employees. The rangers immediately involved a Special Agent with the Investigative Services Branch (ISB). During the investigation, the phone's owner was determined to be a local resident and registered sex offender. After multiple interviews, investigators served a federal search warrant at the suspect's residence within a concessionaire dormitory. Printed child pornography and multiple electronic items containing files of child pornography were seized. Timothy Veach, age 33, was subsequently convicted of Receipt of Child Pornography and was sentenced on March 21, 2011 to 97 months in federal prison. Upon completion of his prison term in 2018, Veach will serve lifetime supervised probation.
ISB Special Agents and US Park Rangers Help Foil Prison Escape
Petersburg National Battlefield • April 2011
During the month of April, Special Agents of the Investigative Services Branch (ISB) and US Park Rangers of Petersburg National Battlefield conducted a special operation to assist the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). The operation took place within and adjacent to the park and involved inmates from the Petersburg Federal Correctional Institute as well as a National Park Service (NPS) employee and other civilians, who had allegedly facilitated an "escape" by inmates during work-release time in the park. As part o the operation, investigators conducted surveillance of suspected violations. The surveillance included personnel from the NPS, OIG, FBI and the Virginia State Police. It was conducted both inside and outside of the park. On the morning of April 15, 2011, air and ground surveillance units observed criminal violations and initiated action to take the involved subjects into custody. Due to the circumstances of the case, the subjects were apprehended at the park entrance and along the park tour road, which disrupted park operations for several hours. A seasonal NPS employee, one inmate, and the inmate's spouse have been indicted in the Eastern District of Virginia for charges including Escape, Facilitating an Escape, Misprision of a Felony, and Conspiracy. The Federal Bureau of Prisons and the US Attorney's Office also assisted in this case.
Man Convicted of Assault on a Federal Officer
Grand Canyon National Park • May 2011
On May 4, 2011, US Park Rangers of Grand Canyon National Park took Marcello Bravo into custody for violations of Being Under the Influence of Alcohol and Interfering with Agency Functions. Bravo refused to cooperate throughout the booking process and grabbed onto a ranger's fingers while the ranger attempted to record his fingerprints. Bravo then twisted the ranger's fingers and caused the ranger to forcefully disengage. The ranger suffered a wrist injury as a result of Bravo's action. A Special Agent with the Investigative Services Branch (ISB) investigated the incident and filed a criminal complaint for 18 US Code 111(a), Assault on a Federal Officer. This is a felony offense. Bravo pleaded guilty to the charge on May 6, 2011. Per the plea agreement, Bravo was convicted of a Class A Misdemeanor and was ordered to serve 5 days in prison followed by one year of supervised release, during which time he is banned from the park.
Three Men Sentenced for Marijuana Smuggling
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument • August 2011
While on helicopter patrol on January 13, 2011, US Park Rangers of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument observed a group of individuals attempting to avoid detection in the Alamo Canyon area. Several members of the group appeared to be wearing large burlap-covered backpacks consistent with they type used by smugglers to carry contraband and provisions. The rangers landed nearby and moved to contact the individuals, some of whom fled. Three subjects were taken into custody and 147 pounds of processed marijuana was seized from backpacks stashed nearby, along with a large food cache. A Special Agent with the Investigative Services Branch (ISB) responded and interviewed the three men, identified as Ivan Alva-Flores, Francisco Lopez-Velasquez, and Jorge Cruz-Gonzales. During interviews, the men claimed they were to be paid between $1,500 and $1,800 for their participation in a smuggling operation. After successful prosecutions were brought by the US Attorney's Office in Tucson (Arizona), all three men pleaded guilty. Alva-Flores was sentenced to serve 15 months in Federal prison, while Lopez-Valsquez and Cruz-Gonzales were each sentenced to serve 13 months. Upon their release from prison they will be transferred to immigration officials for removal proceedings.
Indiana Man Indicted for Child Abuse at Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon National Park • September 2011
A Federal grand jury in Phoenix (AZ) returned a six-count indictment on September 20, 2011 against Christopher A. Carlson, age 45, for charges stemming from incidents of alleged child abuse the month before. Concerned for the safety of three children, US Park Rangers of Grand Canyon National Park contacted Carlson on August 28, 2011. Court documents state that Carlson, of Indiana, took his three grandsons on two separate hikes into the canyon that month. Temperatures during both hikes exceeded 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The indictment alleges that Carlson severely limited water and food for the boys, ages 8, 9, and 12, and that Carlson marched and ran them up dangerous terrain, placing their health at risk. US Park Rangers took Carlson into custody and requested investigative assistance from a Special Agent with the Investigative Services Branch (ISB). Carlson was charged for violations of Knowing Child Abuse committed under circumstances likely to produce death or serious bodily injury. "The indictment alleges that the defendant repeatedly denied food and water to his grandchildren, physically abused them and placed them in harm's way," said Acting US Attorney Ann Birmingham Scheel. "The children were rescued because of the quick actions of the park staff and concerned hikers on the same trail - together, they prevented a tragic outcome." If convicted, Carlson faces a maximum penalty of life in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both.
Investigation of Motor Vehicle Accident Results in Manslaughter Conviction
Grand Canyon National Park • September 2011
A vehicle with three occupants crashed into a ponderosa tree near the intersection of Center and Shuttle Bus roads on August 23, 2010. Investigators found both alcohol and marijuana at the scene of the accident. The driver of the vehicle and one of the passengers sustained serious injuries from the crash and were taken to the nearest trauma center. Another passenger was pronounced dead at the scene. US Park Rangers requested a Special Agent with the Investigative Services Branch (ISB) to assist with the investigation, which also included officers from the Coconino County Sheriff's Office and the Arizona Department of Public Safety. The Federal Bureau of Investigation's Crime Laboratory provided forensic support. The driver of the vehicle, David Serros, was indicted on February 15, 2011 on one count of Involuntary Manslaughter and two counts of Assault Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury. Serros pleaded guilty on September 19, 2011 to the first charge; the other two charges were dismissed pursuant to the plea agreement. Sentencing is scheduled to take place on November 28, 2011.
Major ARPA Case Concludes with Sentencing of Second Suspect
Public Lands in Nevada and California • October 2011
Thousands of artifacts have been returned to the California Native American Heritage Commission and two men have been sentenced as a result of a multi-agency investigation into violations of the Archeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) on public lands. ISB Special Agents, US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) officers, US Park Rangers, and rangers of Sacramento County Parks collaborated on the case, serving a search warrant at a Sacramento residence in March of 2007. The residents were believed to have taken artifacts from National Park Service, US Forest Service, FWS, and Sacramento County Park lands. Interviews resulted in admissions that the residents went to northwestern Nevada on two occasions (2003 and 2006) and collected artifacts from Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. The residents knew this activity was illegal and these artifacts were recovered at their home. The suspects also admitted removing artifacts from other publicly owned lands. Investigators found and seized computers, GPS units, maps, photographs showing the residents searching for and collecting artifacts, and other documentary evidence. Officers also discovered approximately 38,000 artifacts on the property and in the vehicles associated with the property. These artifacts included beads and other burial objects, such as abalone breastplates and pendants, projectile points, mortars, pestles, metates, and stone tools. About 100 evidence lots were seized that included roughly 500 artifacts that may have come from federal lands. In June of 2008, damage assessment field work was conducted at the looted site in northwestern Nevada. This resulted in the documentation of over $15,000 in damage. Two of the residents, a father and adult son, were indicted in October of 2008 on four felony counts including ARPA violations, conspiracy, and theft. In July of 2010, after extensive negotiations, the father agreed to surrender approximately 30,000 non-federal artifacts to the California Native American Heritage Commission. These artifacts, predominantly burial goods, were then returned to the appropriate tribes by the commission.The father was sentenced in July to three years probation including six months home detention, a $3,600 fine, and $100 special penalty assessment based on his one count felony ARPA conviction. In October, following a three hour sentencing hearing that included testimony by a BLM archeologist and Native American tribal representatives, the adult son was sentenced to 30 days in prison, three months home detention and one year of supervised release for his one count misdemeanor ARPA conviction.
Suspects Sentenced for Involvement in Drug Smuggling Activity
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument • October 2011
A second man has been convicted and sentenced for smuggling drugs in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. On March 28, US Park Rangers tracked a group of suspected drug smugglers into the Alamo Canyon area of the monument. Alamo Canyon is open to and frequented by park visitors. On making contact with the group, numerous suspects fled the area. Rangers captured two suspects, later identified as Omar Sandoval-Ventura and Jose Martin Burgos-Diaz, and recovered six backpacks found to contain 291 pounds of processed marijuana. A Special Agent from the NPS Investigative Services Branch responded and provided assistance in the investigation of the incident. The US Attorneys Office in Tucson successfully prosecuted the case, resulting with Burgos-Diaz being sentenced to 13 months in federal prison earlier this year. On October 24, Sandoval-Ventura was sentenced to 24 months in federal prison for his involvement in this smuggling operation.
Grand Canyon Resident Arrested for Sexual Abuse of Minors
Grand Canyon National Park • October 2011
Assistance from the Special Agents with the Grand Canyon Field Office of the Investigative Services Branch (ISB) was requested by the Norton Shores Police Department (NSPD) in July of 2011 for an investigation of sexual abuse against two boys in Michigan by a park resident. The two agencies initiated a collaborative investigation, which was further assisted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Polygraph Unit. As a result of the investigation, a nationwide extraditable warrant for the subject's arrest was issued. Special Agents and US Park Rangers of Grand Canyon National Park arrested the subject without incident on October 7, 2011. If unable to post the $250,000 bond, the subject will be extradited to Michigan.
Former Federal Employee Indicted for Embezzling approximately $730,000
Colorado Public Lands • October 2011
Lydia White, age 48, was named in a 198-count indictment on October 5, 2011. White, a resident of Colorado, worked for the National Park Service (NPS) at the time of the offenses and was charged with 145 counts of theft of government property and 53 counts of money laundering in connection with embezzling approximately $730,000 in money taken from her employer. These charges are allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law. Following an investigation by ISB Special Agents and the IRS Criminal Investigation unit, court documents allege that White willfully and knowingly stole money from the NPS for her own use and that of another from March of 2007 through December of 2010. Her actions deprived the NPS of the use and benefit of the involved funds. Court documents further allege that White conducted financial transactions affecting interstate commerce knowing the property involved represented the proceeds of her unlawful activity, and knowing that the transactions were designed to disguise the nature or source of the unlawfully-obtained proceeds. Assistant US Attorneys are conducting the prosecution.
- "Thanks to the hard work of the National Park Service and the IRS Criminal Investigation, a corrupt government employee who was embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars has been caught, and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," said US Attorney John Walsh.
- "The apparent fraud and embezzlement by this former National Park Service employee is an affront to the taxpayer and the tens of thousands of public servants who do their job honorably and honestly every day," said National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis. "The response to these reprehensible activities should send a strong and clear signal that abuse of the public trust cannot and will not be tolerated."
- "The role of IRS Criminal Investigation becomes even more important in embezzlement and fraud cases due to the complex financial transactions that can take time to unravel," said Sean Sowards, Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation. "This investigation serves to remind us that there is no such thing as free money and there are no awards or incentives for creativity when it comes to crime."
If convicted of theft of government property, White faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for each count. If convicted of money laundering, she faces up to 20 years imprisonment per count, and a fine of up to twice the value of the property involved (or approximately $1,476,863). White also faces a possible order to pay restitution. The indictment includes an asset forfeiture allegation, which states that the defendant shall forfeit all of her interest in any property, real or personal, that consists of or is derived, directly or indirectly, from proceeds traceable to the commission of the offenses stated in the indictment.
Park Employee Indicted for Embezzling more than $1,000
Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site • October 2011
After discovering discrepancies in the audit of gas receipts for Fleet vehicles, park employees contacteda Special Agent with the Investigative Services Branch (ISB). Preliminary findings from the investigation revealed that an employee had been using six Fleet cards to purchase gas for personal use. The embezzlement totaled over $1,000. The employee was indicted in Federal court on October 3, 2011 on one count of violating 18 US Code 641.
Assault on a Juvenile
Hot Springs National Park • November 2011
A man who beat a 16-year-old girl to unconsciousness in Hot Springs National Park has been sentenced to prison. The attack took place in June of 2010 in front of the park visitor center. US Park Rangers and officers of the Hot Springs Police Department responded to the incident and found the victim alive but unresponsive. Special Agents with the Investigative Services Branch (ISB) conducted the investigation with US Park Rangers, and determined the assailant to be Wesley Veasley, of Forrest City, Arkansas, a known associate of the victim. Veasley was wanted on previous warrants by the county and State of Arkansas and had fled the area. Investigators located Veasley months later, and he was subsequently arrested and jailed. Veasley later confessed to an ISB Special Agent that he committed the assault. Veasley was charged in federal court under 18 USC 113 and on November 14, 2011, he pleaded guilty to the assault. He was sentenced to 45 days in jail to run concurrently with other time being served for his past criminal history.
Sex Offender Sentenced
Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park • November 2011
Jeffrey Drye, age 25, has been convicted and sentenced on November 10 for the sexual assault of a minor in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. In January of 2010, Drye, two other men, and a female minor hiked into the Kahuku unit of the park at night. After making a campfire, the two other men walked back to their car to get some food. The car was parked about a mile away. During the other men's absence, Drye assaulted the girl. An ISB Special Agent and US Park Rangers from Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park led the investigation, with assistance from the Hawai'i County Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The US Attorney's Office for the District of Hawai'i prosecuted the case. Drye was indicted last year for abusive sexual contact and sexual assault in the first degree. A jury found him guilty of the former charge and not guilty of the latter during a four-day trial last June. He will serve 21 months in federal prison and a year of supervised release. Drye must also fulfill a lifetime requirement to register as a sex offender with the state of Hawai'i.
Felony Fugitive Arrested
Grand Canyon National Park • November 2011
On November 2, US Park Rangers in Grand Canyon National Park responded to Mather Campground on the South Rim for a report of abandoned property at a campsite. Rangers found a tent, camping equipment, and minimal personal possessions in the area, and initiated an investigation into a possible missing person. Their investigation led to the identification of a subject who had a nationwide extraditable warrant from the state of Connecticut for a child exploitation charge. Rangers contacted the detective in charge of the investigation in Connecticut and found the suspect was also wanted for questioning regarding a series of bank robberies in the state of California. Rangers then requested assistance from Special Agents of the Investigative Services Branch (ISB). A joint investigation was initiated and, operating under the Incident Command System (ICS), a search for the subject was conducted within Grand Canyon National Park. Rangers located the subject at the Camper Services building after he was recognized from photos used during the investigation. Rangers and Special Agents took the subject into custody without incident. If he proves unable to post the $300,000 bond, he will be extradited back to the state of Connecticut.
Park Visitor and Local Resident Sentenced for Threatening a US Park Ranger
Grand Teton National Park • December 2011
A Jackson, WY man was sentenced on December 15 for threatening to assault a US Park Ranger in Grand Teton National Park the previous summer. On July 15, 2011, off-duty US Park Rangers contacted Harry Fish in the Kelly Warm Springs area of the park after one of the park observed Fish violate a pet regulation. The ranger identified himself and instructed Fish to correct the pet violation. During the contact Fish threatened he was going to assault the ranger then, or the next time he saw him. Fish then left the area, but not before US Park Rangers identified the vehicle he was operating. During an investigation conducted by an ISB Special Agent and rangers of Grand Teton National Park, Fish was charged, located and arrested for violation of 18 USC 111(a)(1): forcibly assaults, resists, opposes, impedes, intimidates, or interferes while engaged in or on account of the performance of official duties. Fish pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 days imprisonment with credit for time served, $750 in fines, and one year probation.
Last updated: April 8, 2018