|Friday, Jan 4, 2008|
On a Saturday last July, rangers were alerted to the possibility of a commercial tour company operating illegally in the museum area. Four visitors were contacted and told rangers that theyâd paid for a tour provided by Scott Sorenson of Ranger Led Tours LLC. Sorenson had a luxury limousine certificate, which he said allowed him to conduct tours for hire throughout Colorado. He also clamed to have been a park ranger at the Grand Canyon and said that he was unaware of any permits needed to conduct business within the park. Investigation revealed that Sorenson hoped to make over $35,000 through bookings on his website, RangerLedTours.com, which stated that âeach tour is Ranger Led and each guide has over 20 years of experience in National Park tours, guiding, and customer service.â Rangers also determined that Sorenson was both the companyâs owner and its sole employee, that the tours he was leading originated within the park, where funds exchanged hands, and that heâd never been a park ranger, was using his National Parks Passport to gain commercial entry to the park, and did not have a concessioner contract, as required. On Friday, December 21st, Sorenson pled guilty to failing to pay required fees, engaging in business operations in park areas without a contract, and providing false information in his claim of having been a National Park Service ranger. Sorenson was sentenced to sixty days in jail, suspended, with conditions; banned from Mesa Verde for three years and all other NPS areas for one year; ordered to write a letter to the local Cortez Journal, explaining what he had done at the park; complete twenty hours of community serve at the local Red Cross chapter; and personally deliver a copy of the judgment to the Verde Valley (Arizona) justice court (Sorenson was under probation and deferred prosecution in Arizona for criminal damage, endangerment, and disorderly conduct). Had Sorenson's scheme succeeded, he stood to make about a thousand dollars per day during the four month summer season. This was the second illegal commercial use case prosecuted by the park in as many years. In both cases, tour operators made extensive use of internet web sites to advertise and book illegal tours.