November 4, 2019 — A suspected timber thief pleaded guilty this week to a third degree felony of a timber purchase as trustee with intent to defraud.
Edward Tom Williams, 59, of Longview, Texas, harvested timber, valued at $30,000, on private property in Cass County but failed to compensate the landowner for the entire amount.
“Victims of timber theft typically suffer a huge financial loss, and they deserve to be made whole,” said Cass County District Attorney Courtney Shelton. “In Cass County, the District Attorney’s office takes these cases seriously, and we will prosecute these defendants aggressively in an effort to recoup the restitution to which the victims are entitled.”
Williams has been sentenced to 10 years felony probation and ordered to pay $30,000 back to the victim.
“If they refuse to pay, or are unable to pay, then time in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is always an alternative solution,” said Shelton.
Jarred Lemmon, Assistant Chief of Law Enforcement for the Texas A&M Forest Service Law Enforcement Department, served as the investigating officer on the case.
“Timber theft, especially this kind of timber theft, is more common than most people think,” said Lemmon. “It was a legitimate timber sale, but [Williams] failed to pay the entire amount. It can be difficult for the landowner to find the contractor after that, but our department works diligently to bring those responsible to justice.”
Recent significant Texas A&M Forest Service investigations have resulted in over $350,000 being recovered and paid back to affected landowners.
Texas A&M Forest Service recommends ways landowners can protect themselves from becoming victims of timber theft:
- Visit your property frequently.
- Have someone you know and trust report any cutting on your land immediately.
- Never sign a contract without checking several references of the buyer.
- For the best price, insist on getting bids for your timber.
- Mark all property lines to assure cutting on adjacent property does not encroach on yours.
- Utilize trail/deer cameras on your property that can record suspicious activity or individuals.
If you are unfamiliar with selling timber, you are urged to contact your local Texas A&M Forest Service office. Our field staff will assist you with securing the assistance of a professional resource manager to help select trees for harvest, estimate values and find potential buyers.
For more information, please visit https://tfsweb.tamu.edu/lawenforcement/reporttimbertheft/.
To report suspected timber theft activity call the Timber Theft Hotline 1-800-364-3470.