DENVER (CBS4) — Typically working at night, Jayce Peterson draped a tarp to hide the bright light from an oxy-acetylene welding torch and cut the locks off metal tubes used to collect fees at recreation areas in northwestern Colorado.
This, during the summer of 2018. Peterson hit 20 locations in the first two weeks of his operation. Several he struck more than once.
Thursday, a federal judge sentenced him to 15 months in prison.
In his plea agreement, Peterson agreed to stealing the money inside the fees tubes as well as numerous surveillance cameras placed at the sites to monitor such activity.
Prosecutors estimated the total damage caused to government property at $39,000.
“Fee tube theft and the resulting damage to government property significantly impacts limited agency resources and ultimately negatively affects the users of our magnificent public lands,” said United States Forest Service Special Agent-In-Charge Kenneth Pearson.
“The stolen fees are meant to stay in the local area for both maintaining and improving recreation sites to enhance recreation experiences for all visitors,” added Gary Mannino, an agent from the Bureau of Land Management-Colorado.
The thefts occurred at recreation areas owned and managed by BLM, USFS and the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife. All three agencies were involved in identifying Peterson as the culprit.
Interestingly, a search of online criminal records shows Peterson committed a burglary in Weld County on July 12, 2018, allegedly the same day he torched his first fee tube near Walden.
A federal grand jury indicted Peterson of the fee tube offenses in July 2019.
That same year, Peterson pleaded guilty to burglarizing residences that were evacuated during a southern Wyoming wildfire.
Peterson is currently in Weld County’s custody.
A list of the locations as cited in the federal indictment:
- July 12……Big Creek Lakes Campground
- July 15……State Bridge
- July 17……Blacktail Campground, Blue River Campground, Cow Creek North Campground, Cow Creek South Campground
- July 18……Radium Campground
- July 21……Hahns Peak Lake
- July 23……State Bridge, Radium Campground, Pumphouse
- July 25……Sheriff Reservoir Campground, Fish Creek Falls
- July 26……Aspen Campground, Pines Campground, Ranger Campground, three tubes at Poudre Canyon
- July 30……Lynx Pass Campground
- August 26…..Fish Creek Falls, Hahns Peak Lake
- Sept. 10……Blacktail Campground, Lynx Pass Campground, Chapman Campground, Sheriff Reservoir Campground, Vaughn Lake Campground
- Sept. 12……Blue River Campground
- Oct. 1……Dumont Lake Campground, Meadows Campground