Crime - Sacto 911

Tip uncovers thefts of visitor fees from national forest sites

Two people have pleaded guilty to stealing visitor fees from “fee tubes” in the Eldorado National Forest and other recreation sites in El Dorado County.

The pleas, entered by Brian Lisanti and Deseree Tougas in El Dorado Superior Court, followed a multi-agency investigation that took more than a year, according to a Forest Service news release.

The turning point in the case occurred when Forest Service officers received a report from a member of the public who found a large number of used Forest Service fee envelopes in a trash bin. Evidence indicated that more than $700 in visitor fees had been stolen from a forest recreation site on at least one occasion, the news release said. Fees are deposited by visitors in self-service depositories, or “fee tubes.”

Lisanti pleaded guilty to felony charges, conspiracy to commit a crime with theft and second-degree burglary. He will be placed on four years of probation and serve 120 days in the El Dorado County Jail, according the news release. Tougas pleaded guilty to petty theft, a misdemeanor, and will be placed on three years of probation. Tougas will serve a 45-day alternative jail sentence in either Placer or El Dorado County, the news release said.

A pretrial date for determining restitution has been set for June 5 in El Dorado Superior Court.

“We take this kind of crime seriously,” forest Supervisor Laurence Crabtree said in a written statement. “Recreation fees are used to maintain national forest campgrounds, picnic areas and other facilities. Stealing this money is an offense against forest visitors who should expect these sites to be maintained with their fees.”

The public’s role in reporting suspicious activity was key to the outcome of the case, the news release said.

Anyone with information about a crime in a national forest is advised to contact the nearest forest supervisor’s office. Tips may be reported to 530-622-5061 in the Eldorado National Forest, 530-265-4531 in the Tahoe National Forest and 530-543-2600 in the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.

Cathy Locke: 916-321-5287, @lockecathy