COLLEGE STATION, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) - Clinton Moore, 61, of Nacogdoches, was arrested August 24, 2021 in Cherokee County for Timber Purchase as a Trustee with Intent to Defraud Timber Purchase 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 non-payment issues, the plaintiffs contacted Texas A&M Forest Service for help. 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 allegedly blame the non-payment 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 non-payments, 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.
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