FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 14, 2009
SIX MEN ARRESTED, FIVE CONFESS TO THEFT AT SAND HILLS STATE FOREST
(Columbia,SC)–-South Carolina Forestry Commission law enforcement personnel have charged six men for theft of valuable forest products from Sand Hills State Forest near Patrick, SC. This months-long investigation is thought to be the largest of its kind in that state forest’s history.
In January, Sand Hills State Forest employees began noticing that harvested pine straw was being stolen on a routine basis. Subsequent surveillance, police tips and questioning revealed a complex theft ring which victimized not only the people of South Carolina, but legitimate pine straw harvesters contracted to work on Sand Hills. Videotaped interviews and confessions led SCFC investigators one by one to each new suspect. Punishment for these crimes could include jail time and/or a total of up to $25,000.00. Cheraw PD and the Chesterfield Co. Sheriff’s Office were particularly helpful in gathering intelligence for this case.
Sand Hills, like all state forests, is self-supporting thanks mainly to the cultivation and sale of forest products including timber, pulpwood and pine straw. Additionally, in lieu of property taxes, your state forests pay back 25% of their revenue to local school systems in the counties where they are located. No other state agency does this.
Pine straw is not free. While many who have been arrested for stealing straw think of it as a “victimless crime,” the men arrested in this case knew they were stealing an incredibly valuable forest product. They are known in their communities to make their livings harvesting, baling and selling the straw. Forestry and timber-related businesses constitute the number one manufacturing industry in South Carolina. The South Carolina Forestry Commission is committed to aggressively protecting the Palmetto State’s public and private forest resources. These crimes cost SC landowners millions of dollars each year.
James Evans: WMA Abuse, Theft of Forest Prod., Petit Larceny, Conspiracy
Plead guilty, 18 mos. in prison.
Johnny Duncan: WMA Abuse, Theft of Forest Prod., Conspiracy, Driving Under Suspension, Malicious Injury to Property
Total Fine = $4,160.00
Eric Burns: WMA Abuse, Theft of Forest Prod.
Total Fine = Court Pending (Asking $6,111 or time)
Jeff Jackson: WMA Abuse, Theft of Forest Prod.
Total Fine = $2,175.00
DeQuan Spivey: WMA Abuse, Theft of Forest Prod.
Total Fine = $980.00
Toby Keith: Conspiracy to steal pine straw
Total Fine = Court Pending (Asking $12,000 or time)
Editors’ note: For mug shots, arrest reports and/or details on the specific charges for each of these men, contact Scott Hawkins, SCFC Public Information Director @ 803-896-8820.
This release reports an arrest. All subjects should be considered innocent unless proven otherwise in a court of law.
The SC Forestry Commission’s mission is to protect and develop South Carolina’s forest resource. For every $1.00 invested by SC in the Commission, the industry produces more than $1,000.00 of economic impact.