SAN FRANCISCO – Federal authorities have charged a fraternity at California State University, Chico with illegally cutting down dozens of trees in a national forest during an initiation of new pledges, the U.S. Forest Service said.
The complaint was filed Tuesday against the school's Pi Kappa Alpha chapter and its president, Evan Jossey.
The fraternity was charged with downing the 32 trees at a campground during a weekend initiation in April in Lassen National Forest in Susanville, about 300 miles (482 kilometers) north of San Francisco.
The fraternity also faces a charge of possessing a firearm because a witness heard gunfire at the campground, and a charge of conspiracy to commit offense or defraud the United States.
Jossey did not return a message sent Wednesday through the chapter's Facebook page. He denied the charges to authorities, according to the complaint.
The International Fraternity of Pi Kappa Alpha released a statement Wednesday saying it was "severely disappointed" to learn of the allegations levied against the chapter and has subsequently placed the chapter on administrative suspension pending the outcome of the federal investigation.
"(Chapter) members are expected to fully cooperate with authorities in this matter. The fraternity does not condone the allegations made in this complaint and will revisit the permanent status of the chapter and its members at the conclusion of the federal process," the statement said.
Fraternity and Sorority Affairs officials at Chico State did not return a call for comment on the charges.
Jossey and the fraternity are due in court next month.
It's the second time in a year that a college social organization has been accused of damaging a recreational area.
Last May, a Lake Shasta campsite was wrecked when hundreds of University of Oregon fraternity and sorority members left a half-mile-wide swath of trash after an annual trip, authorities said.
The national Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity suspended the activities of its University of Oregon chapter over the mess at Lake Shasta's Slaughterhouse Island. The sororities and fraternities later did service projects.