Architect may have forged documents |

Architect may have forged documents

William Ferchland

Fake stamps, green ink and $10,000 were the focus of a hearing in which an architect, allegedly working with a suspended license, now faces felony charges of forgery and grand theft.

Daniel Tonnemacher appeared in El Dorado County Superior Court for a preliminary hearing on architectural plans made in 2001 for a house on the 600 block of Eloise Avenue.

Tonnemacher was living in Idaho when he was contacted by Ralph Herrmann, who wanted to build on his land on Eloise Avenue. Herrmann wasn’t satisfied with the look of one proposal and was told by a friend to contact Tonnemacher.

The architect, whose Nevada and California license was supposedly suspended about five years ago, put together plans. Energy calculations were solicited and made from a Grass Valley firm, which Tonnemacher worked with for years.

At the center of the controversy are stamps. Plans and estimates submitted to the South Lake Tahoe building department contained wet stamps, meaning the calculations were certified by an architect or engineer.

“It’s very uncommon,” said Kevin Gattis, a South Lake Tahoe building official. “As a rule people who stamp plans are legitimately licensed.”

Deputy District Attorney Peter O’Hara believes Tonnemacher forged the needed seals and stamps and used bogus structural calculations and designs from another house. Tonnemacher received more than $10,000 before Herrmann suspected wrongdoing. Construction stopped in July 2002. The house remains unfinished and Tonnemacher faces up to six years in prison.

The head of the business that conducted the house’s energy calculations, Robert Walker, said Tonnemacher was a “good source of income” during the 12 years of their working relationship.

When questioned by David Rogers, deputy public defender, Walker said his initials and signature were often used by other employees. Yet Tonnemacher was not Walker’s employee and green ink inside the wet stamp was not used since 2000.

“We haven’t used green ink since my heart attack (in 2000),” Walker said.

Rogers also contended that Herrmann used a portion of Tonnemacher’s plans in the final draft.

Judge Suzanne Kingsbury believed there was enough evidence in the case to charge Tonnemacher with grand theft and forgery counts, including misdemeanor counts of practicing as an architect without a license.

The next court date was set in May.

– E-mail William Ferchland at

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