FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 12, 2008
TIMBER/ARSON CASES TO KEEP FORESTRY COMMISSION OFFICERS BUSY INTO 2009
(Columbia,SC)–-Recent investigations and subsequent arrests promise to keep law enforcement officers with the South Carolina Forestry Commission busy as the agency heads into its winter fire season and into the new year. Charges have varied in the past few months, but each case will be prosecuted aggressively. The crimes range from unauthorized pine straw removal (theft/trespassing) all the way up to arson and are not limited to any particular part of the state:
- Edwijes Hernandez, 41, and Wilma Cruz-Flores, 18, of Gaston, SC, were charged with trespassing and raking pine straw without permission despite signs being posted in English and Spanish. This occurred in September in Swansea in Lexington County.
- SCFC officers will appear in Court in February when Michael Huntley, 52, of Lenoir, NC answers to charges that he sold off valuable timber from another person’s land. Huntley is specifically charged with obtaining a signature under false pretenses. Huntley was paid $8,250.00 for the victim’s timber. This case originated on 10 ½ acres of land in Orangeburg County.
- A person who buys timber from a landowner in South Carolina has 45 days to pay that landowner for his or her share of the revenue of the sale of timber products. Jerry Tucker, 40, of Liberty, SC failed to pay an Anderson County man for timber within that time frame.
- Rushdan Hakim Habeeb, 28, and Walter James Cue, Jr., 62, both of Cheraw, each face 12 counts of theft and trespassing after attempting to rob state lands of merchantable forest products.
- Jefrey Robert Pound, 31, of Gaston is currently in the Lexington County Jail having confessed to four counts of woods arson. He’s awaiting trial on three of those counts.
- David Lawter, 40, of McCormick has just been given five years of prison time and another five years of probation for lighting fires. The case gained headlines after the fires he set endangered a home and destroyed a small barn full of farm equipment.
These crimes threaten the number one manufacturing industry in South Carolina—forestry. South Carolina’s forests, be they publicly owned or privately owned, are sustained and managed to produce revenue. When our state’s forests are burned or stolen from, it impacts our economic well being. Woods arson in particular is a felony. The South Carolina Forestry Commission is dedicated to wildfire suppression. Theft and woods arson crimes will be prosecuted in South Carolina.
ALL SUBJECTS SHOULD BE CONSIDERED INNOCENT UNLESS PROVEN OTHERWISE IN A COURT OF LAW.
Editors, News Directors: For more information, call Scott Hawkins at (803) 896-8820. Mug shots available upon request.
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 about $1,000.00 of economic impact.