Ex-employee arrested in Forest Service thefts

Published: Friday, Sept. 7 2012 2:17 p.m. MDT

LOGAN — Two men, including a former firefighter for the U.S. Forest Service, have been arrested in connection with a large burglary at the Forest Service's Logan complex that included a snowmobile and a trailer full of winter rescue equipment.

Michael Kevin Keller, 31, and Thomas MacElwee, 30, were arrested for investigation of numerous charges Thursday. MacElwee was arrested in Nibley, Cache County, while Keller was arrested in Eugene, Ore., said Logan Assistant Police Chief Jeff Curtis.

On Aug. 19, the Forest Service's complex in Logan, 200 S. 700 West, was broken into, Curtis said. A trailer with a snowmobile, firefighting equipment and other tools belonging to the Forest Service were taken, including snowshoes, a backpack with a shovel kit, avalanche beacons, an orange rescue sled, several hundred dollars in clothing, and power tools, according to an arrest warrant filed in 1st District Court.

Through security surveillance video recorded by a nearby business, investigators were able to identify Keller, whom they learned would have also known the code to get through the gate at the complex because of his former ties to the Forest Service, the affidavit states. Detectives also learned that Keller had moved to Oregon, but had allegedly returned to Utah to visit during the weekend of Aug. 18.

Investigators also obtained information that led them to MacElwee's residence, 2780 S. state Route 185. Several agencies served a search warrant on the house Thursday.

They found the missing trailer, which was in the process of being altered, the affidavit states. Part of the VIN number had been scratched out, all Forest Service markings had been removed, the inside of the trailer had been repainted and the outside was covered with a coat of primer and was being prepared to be repainted, Curtis said.

The snowmobile, however, was not there and remained missing as of Friday.

In addition to the trailer, "a ton of property" with ties to the Forest Service was seized as well as moderate amounts of meth, marijuana, cocaine and illegal mushrooms, Curtis said. A firearm was also found in the house.

MacElwee was booked into the Cache County Jail for investigation of possession of stolen property, altering of a VIN number, possession of a firearm by a restricted person and drug paraphernalia possession.

Both MacElwee and another man who was in the house claimed Keller had "masterminded" the theft of the trailer, according to court records.

Keller was charged in 1st District Court Thursday with theft, a second-degree felony, and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

E-mail: preavy@desnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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