USFS Terror: USFS Employee Steals California Miner's Property
Tom Madrigal left this notice on a tree on the Golden Eagle claim.
On March 12th, 2012, miner Mark Hepfner of Sacramento, along with his brother went to inspect his mineral deposit property, known as the Golden Eagle (CAMC# 0280109), which is located on the North Branch of the Middle Fork of the American River, Placer County, Jefferson Mining District. Golden Eagle was originally located by Mark's father, the late Tony Hepfner, who some of you may know was the inventor of the D.A.M. Blue Bowl.

What Mark and his brother encountered stunned them.

It seems that on February 1st, 2012, employees of the United States Forest Service, namely LEO Tom Madrigal, came to the Golden Eagle and stole his property, which included, but was not limited to water pumps, sluice boxes, a wheel barrow, hoses, tools, wet suits, a winch, tents, sleeping bags, air mattresses, stove, pots and pans, coffee pot, tarps, rope, and all the other things that are typically used by a miner.

Madrigal left his calling card in the form of a bright yellow sign stating that the USFS had confiscated “abandoned property”.

However, Mark received no lawful notice that his mining incident tools were in any way under threat, let alone had been seized by the USFS. He immediately filed a criminal complaint with the Placer County Sheriff's Department and the FBI, both of which have went unanswered.

Investigation and a short note to the local ranger station resulted in a three page letter from Eric Beckert, Acting USFS Patrol Captain of the Tahoe National Forest, which stated that USFS employee Tom Madrigal had removed his property and had done so via helicopter and cargo net. Beckert also stated that his office had even destroyed some of the property.
 

USFS LEO Tom Madrigal
USFS Patrol Captain Erick Beckert identifies USFS LEO Tom Madrigal (pictured above) as being responsible for Hepfner's missing mining incident tools.
Beckert stated that USFS did not know that Mark Hepfner owned the property, stating that his office had actually consulted with a neighboring miner, assuming that he was the claim holder. While this miner stated that USFS did contact him, he also remarked that he had informed USFS that it was not his claim! As the Golden Eagle is very clearly and plainly marked, not to mention the fact that claim records are publicly available from BLM, USFS employees violated Mark's rights by not following through with their fiduciary duties to protect his property.

Mr. Hepfner is willing to fight the United States Forest Service to the wire and has demanded the return of his stolen property. These demands were ignored to the point that USFS have refused to accept his notices sent by recorded mail. Mark intends to pursue criminal and civil damages relating to the theft and destruction of his property and is currently working with Jefferson Mining District to this end.

At this point, Mark's priority is to get his stuff back so that he hopes he can mine this summer. But he needs your help. We need miners to contact Tom Madrigal and demand that he return Mark's property to him, as well as to contact Placer County Sheriff Edward Bonner and demand that he investigate the theft of Mark's property.

To demand the return of Miner Hepfner's stolen property, please contact the following persons.

USFS District Ranger, Chris Fischer at: 530-367-2224
USFS "Acting" Patrol Captain, Eric Beckert: 530-994-3401 ext 6634
USFS LEO, Tom Madrigal at: 530-367-2224 ext 226

Tell Chris Fischer to do the right thing and to fire Madrigal and to return Mark's property.

Please also contact Placer County Sheriff Edward Bonner and demand that he uphold Mark's rights and that he initiate an investigation into Madrigal's activities. Miners are NOT 2nd Class Citizens and demand the same rights as anyone else. Call Sheriff Bonner. at: (530) 889-7800

We also suggest that you contact the office of Congressman Tom McClintock at: (916) 786-5560 or (202) 225-2511 as well as Congressman Doc Hastings, who is the Chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources: (202) 225-5816 and let them know what the United States Forest Service has been up to on the Middle Fork of the American River!


The Golden Eagle was well posted by the late Tony Hepfner when it was located in the 1980's. Nearly 30 years later, the claim remains plainly marked.
The late Tony Hepfner even went to the effort to leave a permanent explanation of the claim boundaries (left). After his father's death, Mark left a memorium message on the claim (right).


Records of claim ownership are publicly available from BLM based on a claim's location. The Golden Eagle is plainly seen above in LR2000.



As you can see, Mark keeps a very tidy camp.


Mark's camp broken down for winter on November 18th, 2011. The next day, his gear was carefully tarped and stored for winter.


 

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