Dennis Falaschi pleads guilty to California water heist charges

Former Panoche Water District head Dennis Falaschi pleads guilty to conspiring to steal water and filing a false tax return.
EDITED BY LUKE REYNOLDS
Irrigation canal winding thru the Arizona desert

Dennis Falaschi, a former head of the Panoche Water District in California, has pleaded guilty to conspiring to steal water and filing a false tax return, federal prosecutors announced. The Los Angeles Times reported May 28 that the 78-year-old entered the plea in federal court in Fresno. 

Falaschi was implicated in a scheme that allegedly siphoned more than $25 million worth of water from a federal irrigation canal over two decades. The water, diverted through a secret pipe, was sold to farmers and other water districts. Authorities estimated that Falaschi stole less than $3.5 million in water, a fraction of the original allegation. 

The Panoche Water District provides irrigation for farmland in Fresno and Merced counties, primarily from the federal Delta-Mendota canal. The case highlights ongoing water management challenges in California, where efforts to conserve water include regulating groundwater pumping and promoting drought-resistant landscaping. 

Falaschi, who agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in further investigations, will be sentenced in September. Neither Falaschi nor Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Barton commented on the case following the May 28 hearing, according to AP News. 

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