Aberdeen man convicted of National Park car prowls gets prison sentence

The Chronicle

A man convicted of thefts and vehicle prowls involving more than 40 victims at national parks in Western Washington was sentenced Wednesday to more than two years in prison.

Michael Wayne Pickering, 41, of Aberdeen, was accused of prowling “at least four dozen cars at more than seven different trailheads and parking lots stretching from Mount Rainier National Park to Third Beach on the Pacific coast, to trailheads in the interior of the Olympic Peninsula’s national park and forest,” according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran for the Western District of Washington.

U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle ordered Pickering to serve 25 months in federal prison as well as three years of supervised release, calling Pickering’s crimes “planned and methodical.”

“The victims in this case didn’t just suffer a financial loss, they were emotionally damaged as well,” said U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran. “Some returned from what was supposed to be a relaxing time in nature, to find themselves stranded with a damaged vehicle, their electronics, clothes and money stolen, marooned in the national forest, with no cell phone service. For some it has forever changed their interest in outdoor activities.”

Pickering was accused of breaking vehicles’ windows and stealing thousands of dollars of equipment on March 28, 2019 from the Graves Creek Trailhead and Fletcher Canyon Trailhead in Olympic National Park, which authorities say started a “month-long theft spree” according to Moran’s news release.

Pickering and a woman reportedly used credit and debit cards stolen from the vehicle amounting to $50,000 in thefts. He was caught shortly after using a victim’s bank cards and was found with a window punch — used to break car windows — and stolen credit cards in his pocket.

“Pickering did not just take credit and debit cards,” according to the news release. “He stole expensive electronics, car and house keys, and even diaries, clean clothes, make-up, and toiletries. When law enforcement searched his residence, they found Pickering had been stockpiling much of the gear he stole or selling it online. He used the stolen debit and credit cards to buy himself luxuries such a flat screen TVs, gaming systems, a drone, and clothes.”

The case was investigated by National Park Service rangers, the Forks Police Department, the Mason County Sheriff’s Office, the Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office and the State Patrol.