Alleged Water Theft Scandal Rocks Panoche Water District in California

Alleged Water Theft Scandal Rocks Panoche Water District in California

LOS BANOS, Calif. — A shocking water theft scandal has recently come to light in the Panoche Water District, a public agency responsible for supplying irrigation to thousands of acres of farmland in Fresno and Merced counties. The alleged theft, described as one of the most audacious and long-running water heists in California history, has led to felony charges against Dennis Falaschi, the former general manager of the district.

The allegations against Falaschi, 77, accuse him of masterminding the theft of over $25 million worth of water from a federal canal over a span of two decades. It is alleged that the stolen water was sold to farmers and other local water districts, with the proceeds benefiting Falaschi, his water district, and a small group of co-conspirators. The stolen water is estimated to be around 130,000 acre-feet, enough to supply a small city for several years.

The scandal has divided the community, with some farmers who relied on Falaschi and his irrigation district defending him as a modern-day Robin Hood, claiming that any alleged wrongdoing was done to ensure that desperate farmers had access to the water they needed. However, others are furious, as stricter irrigation limits are already causing difficulties for farmers in securing the water they require.

The allegations have raised questions about who else may have been involved in the scheme and why state and federal water officials took so long to notice. The investigation into the water theft began in 2016 when FBI agents interviewed former employees of the Panoche Water District, including Robert Zavala, who had kept silent about the theft for years. Zavala, a former Marine, testified in state court about the illicit activities within the district.

The Panoche Water District has also faced allegations of misusing public funds, including paying for employee housing, pickup trucks, slot machines, home remodels, concert tickets, and even an employee’s court-ordered restitution for an assault charge. These allegations, along with the theft of water, have further fueled the controversy surrounding the district.

Federal prosecutors have brought felony charges against Falaschi, but the exact nature of his plea remains unclear. His attorneys have filed paperwork indicating a willingness to change his plea, but negotiations are ongoing. The U.S. attorney’s office, FBI, and other relevant agencies have declined to comment on the case.

The Panoche Water District scandal has captivated the community and shed light on the ongoing struggle for water in the arid San Joaquin Valley. Water, often referred to as “liquid gold” in the region, is a precious resource that can make or break the fortunes of farmers and has historically been a source of power and wealth.

CrimeDoor
Author: CrimeDoor

2 Responses

  1. The post is about an event or situation happening in Los Banos, California. However, there is no further information provided to summarize or provide insights on.

  2. Did you know that Los Banos, California is known as the “Gateway to the San Luis Reservoir”? The reservoir is the fifth-largest reservoir in California and is a popular destination for fishing, boating, and other water activities.

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