Texas A&M Forest Service offers tips to prevent timber theft

In light of a recent timber theft investigation in Cherokee County, the Texas A&M Forest service is working to bring violaters to justice as well offer tips for landowners in order to prevent timber theft on their property. Read the notice below for more information.

Arrest made in Cherokee County timber theft investigation

COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS – Clinton Moore, 61, of Nacogdoches, Texas, was arrested Aug. 24, 2021, in Cherokee County for Timber Purchase as a Trustee with Intent to Defraud on timber valued between $20,000-$100,000, a third-degree felony. Moore turned himself in to the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office after a warrant was obtained by Texas A&M Forest Service law enforcement officers with a $12,000 bond.

The plaintiffs in the case are landowners who originally entered into a verbal agreement with Moore to harvest standing timber from their 60-acre property in the Recklaw community of Cherokee County. The agreement with Moore was to harvest all merchantable timber for fair market value with an approximation of $2,000 given.

After recurring nonpayment issues, the plaintiffs contacted Texas A&M Forest Service for assistance. Law Enforcement Investigator Mike Kuhnert began an investigation and discovered that Moore actually owed the complainants more than $23,000 in stumpage—which was based off the fair market values given by Moore.

Moore would blame the nonpayment of timber trust funds on external reasons such as equipment breakdowns and wet weather conditions.

“As an Investigator with the Texas A&M Forest Service Law Enforcement Department, I understand the hardships that sometimes fall in this profession, such as weather, quotas, equipment breakdowns, COVID-19, etcetera. We have heard every excuse given for reason of nonpayments, or partial payments,” said Kuhnert. “My goal in all of these cases is to get the landowner made whole, but there comes a time when excuses run out—which leads to where we are now.”

This case was submitted to a grand jury and received an indictment leading to Moore’s arrest.

“Landowners can protect their property and investment by closely monitoring their harvest,” said Kuhnert. “It is very important that every timber contract clearly state terms of payment. In the event that a contractor fails to adhere to those terms, the landowner should halt the process until payment is received.”

To prevent timber theft, landowners should:

-Visit their property frequently.

-Have someone they know and trust report any cutting on their land immediately.

-Never sign a contract without checking several references of the buyer.

-For the best price, insist on getting bids for their timber.

-Mark all property lines to assure cutting on adjacent property does not encroach on theirs.

-Utilize trail/deer cameras on their property that can record suspicious activity or individuals.

-Always hold their timber contractor to the agreed upon terms.

Landowners who are unfamiliar with selling their timber are urged to contact their local Texas A&M Forest Service office. Texas A&M Forest Service field staff assists landowners with the process of securing the services of a professional resource manager to help select trees for harvest, estimate values and find potential buyers.

To report suspected timber theft or suspicious activity, call the Texas A&M Forest Service Law Enforcement Timber Theft Hotline at 1-800-364-3470. The Texas A&M Forest Service Law Enforcement Department works diligently with local officials to help bring those responsible for timber theft and other violations of the natural resource code to justice.

To contact a Texas A&M Forest Service Law Enforcement Investigator in your area, please visit ticc.tamu.edu/Documents/ Home/LE_ Map. pdf.

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