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December 24, 2004

Posted 12:52 AM Eastern

Marina Point Development Associates who own a 12.5 acre development site and marina on the north shore of Big Bear Lake have filed a Federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) lawsuit against three U.S. Forest Service employees: Gene Zimmerman, Scott Eliason and Robin Eliason. All three are named as co-conspirators alleging they - along with a principle member of a green group called "Friends of Fawnskin" - attempted to illegally stop a project that was under construction in order to advance their private interests.

"The defendants in this case issued false information about the project to other government agencies. They misrepresented their personal opposition as official U.S. Forest Service positions, plotted and conspired with other people who had a financial interest in the project's demise, improperly shared government information that was not public, and withheld information that my client was entitled to have under the Freedom of Information Act. On top of these illegal acts, they then attempted to destroy evidence on their government-issued computers," said Wayne Rosenbaum of the law firm Foley & Lardner, attorney for Marina Point Development Associates.

According to a press release, this lawsuit alleges "Three U.S. Forest Service employees, as well as one member of the Friends of Fawnskin advisory committee, were active plotters in the strategy to misrepresent information and confuse other government officials in order to stop the project, and which could allow the U.S. Forest Service to then obtain the land in question below fair market value. Rosenbaum said all those named in the lawsuit own property nearby the development and self-interest, rather than a legitimate concern for the environment, is at the heart of their opposition. The group allegedly attempted to cut off Marina Point's water supply through a shady land swap, and continually misrepresented and issued false information about the existence of endangered plants, bald eagle habitats, and the like."

This isn't he first time allegations of lying and fraud has hit not only the U.S. Forest Service, but also the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Back in December 2001, the Washington Times broke a story reporting,

"Three U.S. Forest Service officials, two U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials, and two employees of the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife had planted samples of Canadian lynx hair on rubbing posts and mailed samples of the hair in to laboratories for testing. The agencies were conducting a years long survey of the Gifford Pinchot and Wenatchee national forests to see if the Canadian lynx, declared a threatened species by the Fish and Wildlife Service, is found there. The lynx hair placed on rubbing posts and sent into laboratories actually came from captive animals.

"It tells us, first of all, that there are people in environmental agencies who are willing to lie and cheat in order to produce evidence that can be used to restrict human use of the environment. And it tells us something about the agency culture. For this was not just individual lying and cheating. There was more than one individual in each of these agencies who did the same thing, and it seems very unlikely that they all came up with this idea on their own. And that means that people willing to lie and cheat thought that there was a significant likelihood that others in their agency would be willing to lie and cheat, and that it was very unlikely that others in the agency would blow the whistle on them. The cause of restricting human use of the natural environment is so important, so worthy, so good, that it justifies such behavior. Lying and cheating, evidently, is part of the culture of these agencies."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service derives its authority from international treaties and according to Larry Becraft, constitutional attorney in Huntsville, Alabama, regarding the jurisdiction of Congress over the subject of fish and wildlife: "there is no federal power to control fish or wildlife under the express grants of power to Congress."

In a related area, Americans who have been severely and negatively impacted by the so-called Endangered Species Act (ESA) are once again pushing for revisions to that act. The ESA's existence is directly tied to treaties, something few Americans know anything about, but is of critical importance in challenging the ESA say constitutional scholars. Recommended is a study of an important U.S. Supreme Court case, Reid v Covert, 354 U.S. 1 (1957) to get a better understanding of jurisdiction and whether or not domestic Americans are held subject to treaties. On particular section cited most frequently from that decision is the opinion of Justice Black:

"It would be manifestly contrary to the objectives of those who created the Constitution, as well as those who were responsible for the Bill of Rights - let alone alien to our entire constitutional history and tradition - to construe Article VI as permitting the United States to exercise power under an international agreement without observing constitutional prohibitions....."The court has regularly and uniformly recognized the supremacy of the Constitution over a treaty."

The RICO lawsuit above was filed November 3, 2004 at the U.S. District Court, Central District, Western Division.

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According to a press release, this lawsuit alleges "Three U.S. Forest Service employees, as well as one member of the Friends of Fawnskin advisory committee, were active plotters in the strategy to misrepresent information and confuse other government officials in order to stop the project...