A suspected timber thief plead guilty this week to a Second Degree Felony of Unauthorized Harvesting of Timber valued between $100,000 and $200,000.
Thomas Curtis Fields, 49, of Frankston, Texas, harvested timber on private property near Jacksonville, Texas in Cherokee County without the landowner’s knowledge or permission.
“Unfortunately there are criminals out there who take advantage of landowners and steal valuable timber without the landowner’s knowledge,” said Texas A&M Forest Service Investigator Colton Covington.
The landowner had met with Fields to discuss an estimate on the harvest a few months prior to discovering the theft of timber. No agreement had been made nor contract drafted on the sale of the timber.
The conviction brings this case nearly to a close with the restitution hearing to be set at a later date. The complaint was originally received in November 2017 and submitted to District Attorney Andrew Webber in January 2018. The case was presented to the Grand Jury in Cherokee County in April 2018 with an indictment and felony warrant issued. The suspect was arrested and bonded out in September 2018.
“Our law enforcement department works diligently with local officials to help bring those responsible to justice,” said Covington. “Timber theft is more common than most people think.”
Recent significant TFS investigations have resulted in close to $289,000 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.