Man used blow torch to cut locks, steal money at campground payment drop boxes


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DENVER, CO  – United States Attorney Jason Dunn announced that Jayce Peterson, 36, of Oak Creek, Colorado, was sentenced to more than a year (15 months) in prison for theft and depredation of government property. Peterson’s prison sentence will be followed by two concurrent two-year terms of supervised release.

According to the plea agreement, between July and October 2018, Peterson used an oxy-acetylene torch to cut locks off of metal fee tubes used at recreation areas throughout Northwestern Colorado. He then stole money that others had deposited to pay for camping or for day use.

Damaged fee tubes were on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the United States Forest Service (USFS), and the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife (CPW). Peterson admitted that he typically approached a fee tube during the night.

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He often used a tarp to conceal his actions and the bright light coming from the torch he was using. Peterson also stole surveillance cameras installed by law enforcement agencies to monitor fee tube locations during the investigation. Through coordination between the BLM, USFS, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and other state and local agencies, Peterson was identified and arrested. He caused more than $39,000 in damage.

“Stealing user fees and damaging government property in recreation areas hurts everyone who enjoys our wild areas,” said United States Attorney Jason Dunn. “Coloradans can be confident that this office, together with our law enforcement partners, will protect our public lands to make sure they are kept pristine and beautiful for generations to come.”

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“Theft and intentionally damaging government property are serious offenses, and I applaud our partners in following through with this case,” said BLM Colorado Special-Agent-In-Charge Gary Mannino. “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.”

“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. “This is a great example of local, state, and federal law enforcement partners working together for the common good.”

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United States District Court Judge Christine M. Arguello sentenced Peterson on January 7, 2021.

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The investigation in this case was conducted by the Bureau of Land Management, the United States Forest Service, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife. The prosecution was handled by Assistant United States Attorney Jeremy Chaffin.