Man who impersonated forest ranger gets home detention, $10,000 fine

An Arroyo Grande man convicted in federal court in Los Angeles of impersonating a U.S. Forest Service ranger to patrol a private cattle ranch was sentenced Monday to home detention and a $10,000 fine.

Phillip Laurence “Larry” Cooper was sentenced in U.S. District Court after being found guilty in May of two felony counts of impersonating a federal officer and making false statements to investigators.

He was sentenced Monday to one year of felony probation, six months of monitored home detention, 100 hours of community service and a $10,000 fine, Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce Riordan said.

Cooper was one of two defendants in the case that also involved a U.S. Forest Service patrol fleet manager at the agency’s Santa Lucia Ranger District in San Luis Obispo and northern Santa Barbara counties. Scott Alguire, who prosecutors originally alleged conspired with Cooper to misuse federal law enforcement property, was acquitted in May. The conspiracy charge against Cooper was dismissed.

Cooper is a former safety officer for Cuesta College as well as a part-time reserve officer for the Arroyo Grande Police Department from 1979 to 2009. He was not a sworn officer during the time he patrolled the ranch.

A criminal grand jury investigation found that Cooper used the federal vehicle in September and October 2011 to stop and question people driving on Huasna Road, in some cases asking for identification and recording their information.

One driver told the grand jury that he saw Cooper carry a gun during his patrol, but Cooper was not charged with any weapons violations.

Following his conviction, Cooper filed a motion for a new trial, citing a history of public service.

Prosecutors fought the request, arguing in a rebuttal that Cooper had misused law enforcement vehicles twice in the past. In one instance, Cooper was forced to resign his position with the unnamed agency, according to court records.

Cooper’s request for a new trial was denied Thursday.

Related stories from San Luis Obispo Tribune