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Press Release

Telluride man convicted and sentenced for massive littering of the Uncompahgre National Forest

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Colorado

DENVER – Benjamin Yoho, age 41, currently of Telluride and Ouray, was convicted and sentenced earlier this week following a one day bench trial before U.S. Magistrate David L. West in Durango of crimes related to the massive littering of an area north of Telluride within the Uncompahgre National Forest, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the U.S. Forest Service, and the San Miguel County Sheriff announced.  From a period of October, 2014, through April, 2015,  Yoho not only lived and maintained a structure on National Forest System Lands, but also transported large quantities of items from the Telluride “Free Box” to National Forest System Lands where he littered a large area near the Jud Wiebe Trail.  A volunteer effort was mobilized in May, 2015, and with the help of 48 volunteers and numerous crewpersons with the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control, approximately 8500 pounds of debris was removed from the forest by helicopter.

Yoho was charged and convicted of Residing on National Forest System Lands, Maintaining a Structure on National Forest System Lands, and Leaving Debris on National Forest System Lands. He was sentenced to 6 months in the Federal Bureau of Prisons, to be followed by one year of probation. Conditions of Probation include Yoho’s placement at a halfway house upon release from prison and a ban from Forest and BLM lands. Additionally, the Court recommended that the defendant receive mental health treatment while at the Federal Bureau of Prisons.  The issue of restitution will be decided at a later date.

“This was no ordinary case of littering in the National Forest – this was full-scale trashing of the public lands,  and merited a term of incarceration,” said U.S. Attorney John Walsh.

“The Forest Service greatly appreciates the cooperative effort with the San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office and the local community with this case,” said U.S. Forest Service Special Agent in Charge Laura Mark.  “Individuals residing on national forest lands is not only illegal, it poses a significant public safety concern and causes damage to the resources and watersheds, as well as threatening wildlife and in some cases prevents the public from being able to safely recreate in the national forest.”

"This case was an excellent example of the U.S. Forest Service, the Department of Justice and the local community working together to solve a terrible environmental problem,” said San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters.  “I hope this serves as a warning to all that trashing our National Forest is unacceptable behavior.  Unfortunately the defendant in this case took advantage of the charitable nature of the Telluride community and made a mockery of it. In the future law enforcement and citizens need to be more vigilant in controlling abuses of the "Freebox" and other giving institutions to make certain people are not using donated items for criminal purposes."

This case was investigated by the U.S. Forest Service with support from the San Miguel County Sheriff.

Yoho was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Dondi Osborne of the U.S. Attorney’s Durango Branch Office.

Updated September 18, 2015