Chronicles of 2012
Return of Stolen Coehorn Mortar
Richmond National Battlefield Park • January 2012
In April of 1940, the United States Military at Watervliet Arsenal transferred to the National Park Service a Civil War era Coehorn Mortar identified as CA & Co Boston. 171 lbs 1863 T.J.R. No. 47. The mortar remained in the care of the NPS until the winter of 1970, when it was unlawfully removed from the Cold Harbor battlefield unit of Richmond National Battlefield Park. The incident was originally investigated by the FBI in 1970 but led nowhere. Fast forward over forty years to August of 2011.The party that unlawfully acquired the mortar back in 1970 sold the mortar for $8,000 to another party. This transaction caught the attention of an individual in Detroit, Michigan, who alerted the park historian at Petersburg National Battlefield. The Petersburg historian notified US Park Rangers at the battlefield, who in turn contacted rangers of Richmond National Battlefield Park. A records check revealed that the mortar was stolen from Richmond. The rangers opened a case file and initiated an investigation. When the scope of the investigation became apparent and the multiple locations involved in the case exceeded the park's ability to effectively investigate the case, Richmond rangers contacted Special Agents with the NPS Investigative Services Branch for assistance. Through the tireless work of the US Park Rangers and numerous ISB Special Agents, the mortar was located in Kittery, Maine. It was seized from an involved party on September 15, 2011, by US Park Rangers from Lowell National Historical Park, where it was stored as evidence until being shuttled back to Richmond by ISB Special Agents. In January of this year, the mortar was returned back to its Richmond home after a forty year absence. Plans are for the mortar to be eventually placed on display at our newest park unit, Totopotomoy Creek Battlefield at Rural Plains, where a battery of Coehorn mortars saw extensive use in 1864.
Man Convicted and Sentenced for Assault
Buffalo National River • January 2012
A lengthy and difficult investigation has resulted in the conviction and sentencing of a man for assault along Buffalo National River. The attack took place in 2010. On May 25 of that year, park dispatch received a call about an assault that occurred on the day before along a section of the river between Steel Creek and Kyle's Landing. US Park Rangers contacted the victim, who reported that he was attacked by another man in the group as he launched his canoe. ISB Special Agents assisted the rangers in the ensuing investigation, which revealed that Deaken Shuler had repeatedly struck the victim along the right side of his face and eye, fracturing the lens of his eyeglasses and driving the lens fragments into his face and eye socket. The victim suffered serious injury to his eye. Investigators tracked Shuler down after several months despite difficulty in locating witnesses, several of whom were uncooperative during the investigation. Shuler was charged under 18 USC 113 and found guilty of assault. On January 19, he was sentenced to 24 months probation, assessed $260 in fines and costs, and ordered to pay $1,108 in restitution to the victim.
Grandfather Convicted of Child Abuse
Grand Canyon National Park • February 2012
On February 29, a jury in the US District Court of Phoenix, AZ found a man guilty of three counts of felony child abuse at the conclusion of a trial that spanned three weeks. The charges stemmed from an incident that took place in Grand Canyon National Park the year before. On August 28, 2011, US Park Rangers in Grand Canyon National Park responded to the Bright Angel Trailhead to contact a man hiking with three children. Upon making contact with the party the children informed rangers that their grandfather, Christopher Carlson, had been depriving them of food and water and physically and verbally abusing them along the hike. Rangers learned that Carlson had taken his three grandchildren to the Colorado River and back that day - a strenuous 20 mile hike. Recorded temperatures in the shade had reached 107 degrees. Rangers requested the assistance of Special Agents with the Investigative Services Branch (ISB). The cooperative investigation resulted in Carlson's arrest. ISB continued the investigation, working collaboratively with rangers and with prosecutors of the US Attorney's Office. Carlson remains in federal custody to await his sentencing in June of 2012.
Undercover Operation Leads to Two Arrests for Felony Drug Distribution
Grand Canyon National Park • February 2012
An undercover operation resulted in two arrests in February, as well as the seizure of cocaine and cash. The operation was part of a cooperative investigation by ISB Special Agents and US Park Rangers in Grand Canyon National Park. In January of 2011, rangers received information regarding the distribution of marijuana and cocaine within the park. They contacted ISB Special Agents and initiated the investigation. Charges filed against the suspects include drug distribution, conspiracy, child endangerment, and possession of a controlled substance.
Suspect Arrested, Charged, and Sentenced for Assaulting Two Park Residents
Grand Canyon National Park • March 2012
US Park Rangers in Grand Canyon National Park were alerted on March 17, 2012 to an assault on a Grand Canyon resident that resulted in serious bodily injury. The rangers contacted Special Agents with the NPS Investigative Services Branch (ISB) who initiated an investigation. The investigation revealed the perpetrator was Jordan C. Burns, who was also a suspect in a separate assault on another Grand Canyon resident. Investigators filed two criminal complaints and two arrest warrants were issued for Burns. Special Agents and rangers arrested Burns pursuant to the warrants, and on March 22, 2012, Burns pleaded guilty to two counts of Assault. He was sentenced to 180 days in custody and two years of supervised probation. Burns was also ordered to pay restitution to both victims.
Additional Convictions Made in "Operation Antiquity"
California Public Lands • March 2012
On March 19, Michael Malter and Malter Galleries were each sentenced for felony Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) violations in US District Court in Los Angeles. The sentencings stemmed from a five-year-long investigation called Operation Antiquity that focused on looting, importation, sale and tax fraud violations related to cultural items from the US and other countries. Participating along with the NPS in this investigative effort are Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division. Looted Native American and pre-Columbian artifacts were consigned to Malter and Malter Galleries in June of 2004 by an undercover ISB Special Agent. Malter and the auction company knew that the domestic artifacts were illegally taken from public lands and that the pre-Columbian artifacts had been smuggled into the US from Central America. Despite this knowledge, Malter sold these antiquities at an auction in October of 2004 for $3,000. In January of 2005, a second lot of smuggled pre-Columbian artifacts were consigned to Malter and Malter Galleries. Having been provided information about the smuggled nature of the artifacts both verbally and in writing, Malter sold the antiquities for $1,500 at an auction in February of 2005. In both instances, the illicit artifacts were purchased back by US Park Rangers and ISB Special Agents posing as buyers. Investigators with the NPS and ICE served a search warrant in January of 2008 at Malter Galleries in Encino, California. Malter and gallery employees were also interviewed at this time. At the sentencing hearing on March 19, Malter was sentenced to a year of home detention, two years of probation and 150 hours of community service. Malter Galleries and Malter were jointly ordered to pay about $24,000 in fines, restitution and community service. Additional cases against other entities are pending.
Investigation Leads to Child Porn Conviction
Yellowstone National Park • March 2012
A multi-agency investigation by several law enforcement agencies has resulted in the arrest and conviction of a man for possession of child pornography. In 2010, the Division of Criminal Investigation of the Montana Department of Justice began looking into an individual who was downloading child pornography. That led them to 57-year-old James H. Durant, a concession employee in the Old Faithful area of Yellowstone National Park and in Grand Canyon National Park. During the subsequent joint investigation by ISB Special Agents, Montana authorities, and the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, investigators used forensic analysis of Durant's computers. He was in possession of hundreds of images of child pornography that included images of children engaged in sadistic or masochistic abuse or other depictions of violence. Durant was arrested at Old Faithful in October of 2011. Durant was tried and convicted on federal charges of possession of child pornography. On March 15, he was sentenced in the US District Court for the District of Wyoming to 10 years in prison followed by a lifetime of supervised release.
Two Groups of Smugglers Arrested in One Week
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument • March 2012
US Park Rangers intercepted two groups of smugglers within a week's time this month. The successful operations confirmed the park's joint strategy with the Border Patrol to aggressively respond to illegal activity near important park visitor use locations. As a result, they have pushed cross-border smugglers into territory away from one of the park's most popular spots for bird-watching and viewing of spring wildflowers. As recently as six months ago, lower reaches of Alamo Canyon were being used as illegal alien and narcotics smuggling routes. Joint efforts by US Park Rangers and Border Patrol agents focused on putting remote sensors in place and stepping up responses to illegal activity there. On March 8, rangers responded to ground sensor transmissions and arrested 13 suspects and seized 529 pounds of marijuana. With help from Border Patrol agents, the rangers secured the suspects, documented evidence in the field, and walked the suspects more than a mile out of the backcountry to Alamo Canyon Campground. Those apprehended were then processed at the Border Patrol's Ajo Station north of the park and interviewed by ISB Special Agents and Homeland Security Investigations agents (formerly known as Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, or ICE). Eleven of the 13 suspects were turned over for prosecution by the US Attorney's Office. On March 15, just a week later, four suspected smugglers were arrested in the same area, confirming the park's assessment that smugglers are moving out of the part of Alamo Canyon used by visitors. Such targeted enforcement actions enhance visitor and employee safety in the areas of the monument open to the public.
Man Arrested for Child Molestation
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area • March 2012
In October of 2010, ISB Special Agents were contacted by a California police department about the sexual assault of a minor that occurred within Glen Canyon National Recreation Area on the weekend of July 4, 2010. The incident occurred during a family trip to the recreation area and the perpetrator was known to the victim. ISB Special Agents in California and Arizona conducted the investigation. The suspect was indicted on February 2 by Coconino County and was charged with Child Molestation. On March 8, the suspect was arrested in California pursuant to a nationwide extraditable arrest warrant issued by Coconino County. A conviction of Child Molestation carries a presumptive term of imprisonment of 17 years.
Man Convicted for Repeatedly Threatening a US Park Ranger
Grand Canyon National Park • April 2012
Gary C. Palmer pleaded guilty to one count of threatening a federal officer on April 26. Shortly thereafter, he was sentenced to credit for time served in custody and one year of unsupervised probation. In December of 2011, Palmer threatened a US Park Ranger of Grand Canyon National Park for the ranger's performance of his official duties. The threat was emailed and involved the ranger being placed on Palmer's "death list." The ranger contacted Special Agents with the NPS Investigative Services Branch (ISB) and the subsequent investigation revealed that Palmer was previously convicted of threatening the same US Park Ranger in 2009. Investigators filed a criminal complaint and obtained a warrant for Palmer's arrest. Such warrants are routinely entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) Wanted Person Files. A Coconino County Sheriff's Deputy contacted Palmer in the early morning hours outside of Flagstaff, Arizona, after he discovered Palmer sleeping in a picnic area. The officer was notified of the NCIC wanted person notice and placed Palmer under arrest. Threatening a federal official can carry a sentence of up to 6 years in prison.
Convicted Relic Hunter Sentenced to Jail Term
Petersburg National Battlefield • April 2012
John Jeffrey Santo of Petersburg, VA was sentenced in federal court on March 21 to incarceration for a year and a day for three felony charges stemming from illegal relic hunting in Petersburg National Battlefield. In addition to prison time, Santo will serve three years of supervised probation during which time he is banned from NPS lands, and he must complete mandatory drug and alcohol counseling and testing. Santo must pay $7,356 in restitution to the park for damage caused by his illegal excavations, and a $300 special assessment fee. As a result of an investigation by ISB Special Agents, Santo pleaded guilty to the charges last year and was remanded to the custody of the Bureau of Prisons on April 9. Investigators determined that between 2005 and 2010, Santo hunted relics on a nearly daily basis - much of the time within Petersburg National Battlefield. It is unknown the exact number of artifacts Santo excavated or the full extent of the damage caused by his unlawful activity, but according to journals that he kept, Santo excavated over 18,000 Civil War era bullets alone during this timeframe. He must forfeit to the park the 9,936 artifacts that were seized from his residence during the service of a search warrant last year.
Utah Man Pleads Guilty to Aggravated Assault
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area • May 2012
ISB Special Agents investigated a case of aggravated assault after the victim, bearing visible bruises, arrived at a domestic violence center in Salt Lake City, Utah, to report the attack. During a houseboat trip to Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in September of 2010, Leslie Melvin Brown, V, of Utah, had been arguing with his girlfriend for several hours. Brown grabbed her, pulled her off of the captain's chair and started to choke her on the floor of the houseboat. He later took her suitcase, which contained approximately $1,500 worth of property, and threw it into Lake Powell. Brown pleaded guilty to Aggravated Assault (Domestic Violence), a third degree felony, on May 15.
"Operation Antiquity" Follow-Up
Pacific West Region • May 2012
On May 7, 2012, Robert Perez was sentenced for a felony smuggling violation in US District Court in Los Angeles, CA. Perez will serve six months of home detention and three years of probation, and must pay a $10,000 fine. The sentencing stemmed from a five-year-long, multi-agency investigation called "Operation Antiquity" that focused on looting, importation, sale, and tax fraud violations involving cultural items from the US and other countries. Special Agents with the NPS Investigative Services Branch collaborated with the US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division throughout the investigation. Between June and December of 2002, Perez sold $3,810 of pre-Columbian artifacts from El Salvador and artifacts and cave features from Thailand to undercover NPS and FWS agents. All of these items were smuggled into the US by Perez after having been looted in their countries of origin. Dr. Karen Olsen Bruhns of San Francisco State University and Fundacion Nacional de Arqueologia de El Salvador authenticated the Pre-Columbian material. The Thai artifacts were authenticated by Dr. Joyce White of the University of Pennsylvania Museum. Additional cases against other entities are pending.
NPS Rangers Testify in Capital Murder Fugitive Trial
Grand Canyon National Park • August 2012
Terrance Black was found guilty of capital murder on August 30, 2012, at the end of an 8-day trail. Black will serve life in prison with no chance of parole. He was apprehended in Grand Canyon National Park by US Park Rangers on April 22, 2011. Black, a capital murder fugitive, had reportedly been panhandling at a scenic overlook. When rangers investigated, Black fled and jumped over the edge of the Grand Canyon resulting in an extensive technical rescue operation. A joint investigation was conducted by ISB Special Agents, Grand Canyon National Park, Coconino County Sheriff's Office, Arizona Department of Public Safety, the Federal Bureau of Investigation Evidence Response Team, Plano Police Department (TX), and the Texas Rangers. On August 23, 2012, two US Park Rangers from Grand Canyon National Park, a US Fish and Wildlife Officer (formerly NPS), and an ISB Special Agent testified during Black's trial in McKinney, Texas.
"Operation Cleansweep" Shuts Down Marijuana Cultivation Sites
Death Valley National Park • August 2012
Two marijuana grow sites within Death Valley National Park were raided by NPS personnel on August 9 and 10. The interdiction operation, dubbed "Operation Cleansweep," resulted in the removal and destruction of approximately 8,000 marijuana plants. NPS law enforcement officers pursued several individuals who fled the grow sites, but were unable to immediately apprehend any suspects. A wildland fire sparked by dry lightning on the evening of August 10 ultimately caused three suspects to flee Hunter Mountain. The suspects were found in Grapevine Canyon on the evening of August 11. Two of the three were apprehended and are awaiting trial on marijuana cultivation charges. The grow sites suffered extensive resource damage, including the cutting down of over 100 cottonwood trees at one site. Future operations are being planned to rehabilitate these locations. "Operation Cleansweep" was the culmination of a 10-month investigation conducted by ISB Special Agents and US Park Rangers of Death Valley National Park. Participating in the operation were ISB, Pacific West Region special event and tactical teams, Sequoia-Kings Canyon marijuana interdiction group, Death Valley resource management staff, and the California Air National Guard.
Former NPS Employee Sentenced for Embezzlement
Yellowstone National Park • August 2012
Danel Nickerson, age 45 and a former Yellowstone National Park employee, was sentenced on August 9, 2012, by US District Judge Nancy Torresen for embezzlement of government funds. Nickerson will serve one year probation and must pay $1,200 in fines, $100 in court fees, and $7,429 in restitution to her victims. ISB Special Agents investigated the case, finding that Nickerson stole money from the park's fee collection program in 2007. She worked in the park Finance Office from 2003-2007, and her job "included receiving envelopes containing cash that had been collected at various entrance booths around Yellowstone," prosecutors state. Nickerson and other employees were responsible for counting and recording cash receipts and depositing funds into the appropriate Federal Reserve account. On July 21, 2007, while working in the cash-counting office, Nickerson stole $3,129 in cash "by first concealing the envelope containing the cash among other paperwork on her desk and then by carrying the cash away from the office," documents state. Three days later, again while carrying out her duties in the cash-counting office, Nickerson stole $4,300 split between two envelopes. Prosecutors said that Nickerson "did this by dropping the envelopes containing the cash into a trash can and subsequently removing it from the trash can and taking it away." According to court documents, had the case gone to trial, prosecutors would have introduced "accounting evidence showing that the quantities of cash were missing and video recordings from surveillance cameras which were in place in the cash counting office." Yellowstone spokesman Dan Hottle confirmed in May that Nickerson had been a Yellowstone Park employee, and said the National Park Service initiated the investigation that led to her conviction, which could have carried a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
Operator of Wastewater Treatment Plant Pleads Guilty to Illegal Dumping of Sewage
Mount Rainier National Park • September 2012
The operator of the wastewater treatment plant at Paradise in Mount Rainier National Park pleaded guilty on September 28 to violating the Clean Water Act. He had allowed hundreds of thousands of gallons of sewage to run into the Nisqually River in August of 2011. James Barber, age 52, of Yelm, Washington, pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge today in US District Court in Tacoma, announced US Attorney Jenny Durkan. Under the terms of the plea agreement, Barber is giving up his certification to operate a wastewater facility and is resigning from the National Park Service. The NPS Investigative Services Branch (ISB) investigated the case with the Environmental Protection Agency Office of Criminal Investigations. Assistant US Attorney Matthew Diggs prosecuted the case. According to records filed in the case, Barber worked as an operator of the Paradise Wastewater Treatment Plant, part of the facilities of Mount Rainier National Park. It treats wastewater generated at the Paradise Visitor Center and Paradise Inn. The treatment plant is designed to provide advanced secondary treatment before the waste is discharged into a drainage ditch that flows into a waterfall that in turn flows into the Nisqually River. In his plea agreement Barber admitted that during spring and summer of 2011, he failed to stop the build-up of solid waste in the treatment plant. The filters became clogged and the advanced treatment portion of the plant would not operate properly. Instead of fixing the problem, Barber used a bypass around the advanced treatment and surge storage tank and, as a result, minimally treated sewage was dumped directly into the drainage ditch and flowed into the waterfall and Nisqually River. Barber left work for a few days on August 27, 2011, and did not log the bypass into the log book and did not inform his co-workers of the bypass or the problem. Between August 27 and August 30, 2011, some 200,000 gallons of minimally treated sewage flowed into the Nisqually River. Under the terms of the plea agreement, Barber is banned from entering Mount Rainier National Park for five years. He also agreed not to seek employment in any job related to wastewater treatment for five years, and will not seek certifications, licenses or permits related to wastewater or drinking water treatment for the remainder of his life. Barber is scheduled to be sentenced by US Magistrate Judge J. Richard Creatura on December 14, 2012.
Phoenix man convicted of Assault on Federal Officers
Grand Canyon National Park • September 2012
In March of 2012, US Park Rangers at Grand Canyon National Park responded to a tractor-trailer broken down in a congested area of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. The driver became angry with concessionaire employees and two rangers when they attempted to assist him with unlocking his brakes so he could drive the trailer to Phoenix. The driver caused a disturbance by cursing repeatedly at the employees and rangers. He was ultimately detained for creating the disturbance. Soon after being restrained, the driver began physically fighting the rangers and kicked one of them when they attempted to search him for weapons. The man continued his assault on the law enforcement officers, who requested immediate backup. Additional US Park Rangers, ISB Special Agents, and an Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives Special Agent responded. The driver was taken to the Grand Canyon Booking Facility to be processed. At the booking facility, the driver again became combative and bit the hand of one of the officers. The bite broke the skin, caused bruising and an avulsion of skin, and resulted in substantial bleeding. ISB Special Agents led the investigation into the multiple assaults. On September 28, 2012, a federal jury in Prescott, Arizona found the driver, Anthony Keith Swint, age 43, of Phoenix, guilty of two counts of assault on a federal officer. Each count pertained to a different officer who was assaulted. A conviction for assault on a federal officer carries a maximum penalty of eight years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both. Sentencing is set for December 17, 2012.
Former Seasonal NPS Employee Sentenced for Video Voyeurism
Ozark National Scenic Riverways • September 2012
On September 28, 2012, a federal judge sentenced former NPS seasonal maintenance employee Randon Crane to three months imprisonment and one year of supervised probation. Crane must also register as a sex offender for fifteen years. Crane admitted he used his cell phone camera to obtain images of a 16-year-old girl as she used a park shower facility in an Ozark National Scenic Riverways campground. Crane was able to lie down in an adjacent utility room and place his cell phone in a hole connected to the shower room to obtain the images. The victim saw the cell phone disappear into the hole and grew suspicious. The girl's parents notified US Park Rangers and, during the subsequent interview by an ISB Special Agent, Crane confessed. An NPS computer crimes investigator obtained a search warrant for Crane's cell phone and analyzed the contents. Ozark officials terminated Crane's employment the day he confessed to the ISB Special Agent, and immediately retrofitted the shower facility to prevent future incidents. They recommend all NPS managers inspect their facilities for foundation vents, auxiliary drains or other structural features or openings that may be accessed to conduct similar criminal activities.
Former NPS Employee Sentenced for Embezzlement
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve • September 2012
Lydia L. White, age 49, formerly of Hooper, Colorado, was sentenced on September 21 by US District Court Judge Robert Blackburn to serve 33 months for embezzling money from the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Judge Blackburn then ordered White to pay the National Park Service $738,471 in restitution. Once released from prison, White will serve 3 years of supervised release. White was indicted by a federal grand jury on October 5, 2011. She pleaded guilty to theft of government property and money laundering before Judge Blackburn on May 4, 2012. According to the stipulated facts contained in the plea agreement, on January 10, 2011, a National Park Service budget technician working at the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Alamosa County, Colorado, was reconciling third party draft checks when she noticed that two checks had not been entered into the park's vendor log. Upon inquiry, the technician discovered that the two checks had been written to Richard White. Further inquiry revealed that two other checks had also been written to Richard White despite having been entered into the log as written to other legitimate park vendors. Richard White is the husband of Lydia White, an NPS employee who worked in the office and whose responsibility it was to pay park expenses. ISB Special Agents conducted the investigation with IRS criminal investigators. They determined that from January 2007 through January 2011, Lydia White had written over 870 checks totaling $731,009 to her husband. The investigation also revealed that Lydia White had made a number of unauthorized purchases using her government charge card. The charges included purchases for wood flooring for her home, women's clothing, fencing, and a stay at the Pagosa Springs Resort. The total amount of unauthorized purchases on the card exceeded $7,461.
Prosecutions Continue In "Operation Artifact"
California Public Lands • September 2012
Prosecutions continue in "Operation Artifact," the multi-year interagency investigation into the sale of cultural items looted from federal lands. On September 19, Ronal Milam of the National Indian Center in Corona (CA) was sentenced for a misdemeanor violation of the Archeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) in federal court in Los Angeles. He was ordered to pay $758.41 in restitution and $10,000 in community service and fines. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), US Forest Service, and US Fish and Wildlife Service agents participated with the National Park Service in this investigative effort. Looted Native American artifacts were consigned or sold to Milam and the National Indian Center in 2007, 2008 and 2009 by a cooperating individual. Milam and the auction company knew the artifacts were illegally taken from public lands; despite this knowledge, Milam sold these antiquities at several public auctions. The illicit artifacts were purchased back by US Park Rangers and ISB Special Agents posing as buyers. In August of 2010, investigators with the NPS and BLM served search warrants at Milam's residence and storage facility. Milam and other company employees were also interviewed at this time. Additional cases against other involved entities are pending.
Felon Caught In Possession of Stolen Firearms
Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site • September 2012
As a result of a multi-agency investigation, Jeffrey Scott Willcoxon, age 32, of Otero County, was sentenced to serve 90 months (over 7 years) in federal prison for being a felon in possession of firearms. US Attorney John Walsh and ATF Special Agent in Charge Marvin Richardson made the announcement that Willcoxon was sentenced by US District Court Judge Philip Brimmer on September 12. Following his prison term, Willcoxon must serve 3 years of supervised release. Willcoxon, a convicted felon, was caught by local authorities and the ATF selling automatic weapons as well as historic weapons. It is illegal for him to possess firearms. This case was investigated by ISB Special Agents, the Pueblo ATF Gun Task Force, the Pueblo Police Department, the Las Animas Police Department, the Otero County Sheriff’s Office, and the Bent County Sheriff’s Office. Willcoxon was prosecuted by Assistant US Attorney Kurt Bohn. According to court documents, including the stipulated facts contained in the plea agreement, in August 2010, a Las Animas Police Officer contacted an ATF Special Agent about several residential burglaries where approximately 25 to 50 firearms had been stolen. The Las Animas officer stated that during his investigation into the stolen firearms he determined that a suspect named Jeffrey Willcoxon was directing several juveniles to steal firearms. The officer had been in contact with both the Otero and Bent County Sheriff’s Offices and understood that each of those counties also had several burglaries involving the same group of people. Further, the officer learned that Willcoxon was taking the stolen firearms to a local man who was known as an avid firearms collector. Later, an ATF Special Agent spoke with an Otero County Undersheriff who advised the agent that between April 4, 2010 and September 28, 2010 three historic sites located in either Bent or Otero Counties, including Bent’s Fort, had been burglarized. During these burglaries reproduction flintlock firearms, buffalo furs, cash and other items were taken. The Undersheriff then issued a press release asking for the public’s help in locating the stolen historic items. The publicity resulted in a tip from a Pueblo, Colorado resident who stated that he purchased what he believed was a stolen buffalo skin. The description the tipster gave matched Willcoxon, who was subsequently positively identified in a photo lineup. Over the next several months ATF Task Force Officers working in an undercover capacity made a number of purchases of firearms from Willcoxon, including historic firearms as well as fully automatic rifles with silencers. An undercover officer told the defendant that he, the officer, was a felon and not allowed to possess firearms. Willcoxon sold the weapons to him anyway. A total of 26 firearms - including machine guns, silencers, stolen firearms and stolen historic firearms - were purchased or seized during this investigation.
- “This joint investigation illustrates the collaborative effort of law enforcement agencies at the federal, state and local levels working together to keep guns out of the hands of criminals,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Marvin Richardson. “We will continue to combine our resources to protect our citizens from violent crime and make our communities a safer place to live.”
- “The staff of Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site wishes to extend our sincere thanks and appreciation to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the National Park Service Special Agents, and the Otero and Bent County Sheriff’s Offices for their collaboration and professionalism in the quick resolution of this case,” said Alexa Roberts, Superintendent of Bent’s Old Fort.
Hikers Charged with Child Abuse
Grand Canyon National Park • October 2012
In October of 2012, a couple attempted to take their 8-month-old daughter from the rim of the Grand Canyon to the Colorado River and back to the rim in one day (a hike strongly discouraged by the National Park Service). The family was unprepared for the hike and resorted to eating the baby's food. On the hike out of the canyon, the family could no longer carry the baby due to exhaustion. They gave their baby to a hiker/stranger who had offered to help carry the child. When the hiker/stranger reached the South Rim ahead of the family, he immediately went to the Bright Angel Lodge and requested law enforcement assistance. Upon reaching the rim, the family of three flagged down a shuttle bus and reported that their baby had been kidnapped.US Park Rangers responded to the scene and called for assistance from the Investigative Services Branch (ISB). A joint investigation was conducted with rangers from the South Rim District, the Canyon District, ISB Special Agents, and Arizona Child Protective Services (CPS). The baby was placed in the protective care of CPS and each parent was charged with a felony count of Child Abuse for recklessly placing a child in a position where its health was endangered. Both parents ultimately pleaded guilty in court to permitting life, health, or morals of a minor to be imperiled by neglect, abuse, or immoral associations (a class 1 misdemeanor).
Three Sentenced on Charges Related to Game Smuggling
Hawai'i Public Lands • October 2012
A federal judge sentenced two Hawai'i hunters to community service on Monday following an investigation into the inter-island smuggling of axis deer by helicopter. Neither man was charged with the smuggling itself, but prosecutors said their actions introduced axis deer to the Big Island for the first time and harmed the environment as a result. The NPS Investigative Services Branch (ISB) assisted the US Fish and Wildlife Service in the case, which was prosecuted by the US Attorney's Office District of Hawai'i. Daniel Rocha of Mountain View was sentenced to 100 hours of community service and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine for illegal transport, a Lacey Act misdemeanor. Jeffrey Grundhauser was ordered to perform 100 hours of community service for operating an illegal guiding service, a misdemeanor violation of the Lacey Act, for taking an unlicensed hunter (an undercover Fish and Wildlife Service special agent) to shoot game animals on his ranch in upcountry Maui. Grundhauser must also pay a $15,000 fine and will be on probation for one year. The deer were introduced to the Big Island as part of a trade for mouflon sheep in December of 2009. The animals were taken between the islands by Maui helicopter pilot Thomas Hauptman. A federal judge last month sentenced Hauptman for illegal transport, a misdemeanor violation of the Lacey Act. He will be required to help the Big Island organization that is trying to eradicate deer by providing the group with 500 hours of flight time. The Big Island Invasive Species Committee has so far killed three deer within a two-mile radius of where Rocha released the deer. Conservationists, state officials and ranchers worry that the deer could harm Big Island forests, farms and ranches if they become established there. The assistant US attorney said that Rocha released the deer because he believed it was his right to hunt and provide for his family. But he said Rocha failed to understand there are rules and laws to protect the environment and community and that he didn't have the resources to contain the deer. He said prosecutors brought the case before the court to deter others from similarly transporting and selling wildlife.
Former Recreation Center Manager Charged for Theft and Fraud
Grand Canyon National Park • October 2012
In January of 2011, the Investigative Services Branch (ISB) was contacted by members of the Board of Directors of the Grand Canyon Recreation Center. The center is a not-for-profit organization operating within the confines of Grand Canyon National Park. Boardmembers believed that the former manager of the recreation center used center funds for personal use over a period of two years. During the investigation, two federal search warrants were served and a number of items purchased with the center's funds were recovered.The amount of the theft was in excess of $40,000. On October 2, 2012, the former manager was charged in US District Court for the District of Arizona with theft and access device fraud. Both charges are felonies.
Last updated: April 8, 2018