SPRINGFIELD, Colo. — Farmers love it when it rains, especially in southeast Colorado where severe drought conditions continue to persist, but for farmer Trey Jagers, the rain became his nemesis.
Federal criminal court records that name Jagers and three other unknown “conspirators” describe a plot to damage and tamper with eight federally-owned rain gauges in Colorado and Kansas.
9Wants to Know has learned the group’s goal was to disrupt the official record of rain in order to fool insurance programs that pay farmers for losses when there is a lack of rain.
According to federal court records, the group used pie pans, hammers and silicone to prevent rain gauges from collecting water. They poked holes in the gauges, tipped them over or sometimes cut wires, records show.
“The defendant used a pan, sometimes referred to as a ‘pie tin’ or a ‘cake pan’ to cover the Little Washington rain gauge during precipitation events,” the plea agreement records say.
According to the court records, the conspiracy to damage the rain gauges occurred from July 2016 and continued to September 2021.
The plea agreement indicates at least eight rain gauges in Colorado and Kansas were either tampered with or damaged. On 14 occasions, government employees made note of the damages, according to the court records.
On May 25, Jagers pleaded guilty in a Denver federal courtroom to a felony conspiracy charge and agreed to pay $11,372 in damages.
Colorado State Climatologist Russ Schumacher and a few of his fellow scientists had to make note of the missing data in the official rain record, he told 9NEWS.
“It's just not the sort of case that I think any of us have dealt with before,” Schumacher said of the missing data, adding that sometimes rain gauges break, but that intentional disruptions are unusual.
Schumacher said while the missing data does not have a significant impact on the official record, it does slightly cloud how wet the area was during those years.
“What we like to have in the weather and climate world is a nice long, consistent record at a station. And now at those particular stations, we don't have that anymore,” Schumacher said.
According to the plea agreement, at least one of the rain gauges that was tampered with was owned by the FAA at an airport in La Junta, Colorado.
Greg Hanson of the National Weather Service in Boulder told 9NEWS such weather stations at airports are critical to pilot and public safety.
“We use that real-time rainfall to help us predict and warn of heavy rainfall and flash flooding that might result from that,” Hanson said.
Jagers declined an interview with 9NEWS on the day of his plea hearing, but sent a statement through his defense attorney.
“Today I pled guilty in court because my involvement in this case was wrong. I regret my actions and will work to make amends for the harm I have caused,” Jagers said in the statement.
Jagers, as of this publication, is the only man to face charges in the conspiracy. He is expected to be sentenced in September and could face up to five years in prison.
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