Couple Charged With Stealing 1,970 Trees From Forest

A man and woman in Minnesota face up to a year in jail and thousands of dollars in fines after they were caught sap-handed in their attempt to steal a huge quantity of spruce trees and tree tops from county-managed forest land, all with the goal of selling to unsuspecting Christmas-tree buyers.

“The total was 1,970 trees, and they said they are getting from $6 to $9 per tree top, so it would have been a felony theft had it gone through,” a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer tells the Duluth News Tribune. “We get these illegal cuts just about every year, but this is the biggest one I’ve had.”

Cutting is allowed in the forest, provided people get the proper permissions from the county and pay the appropriate fees. The couple did not do that.

And rather than simply taking the tops off of older trees, allowing the bases to continue to grow, couple apparently went around crudely cutting down young trees near their bases, which can permanently damage or misshape the trees.

“They just went in there with a shears and lopped them off,” explains the Conservation Officer.

Authorities say the cache of pilfered trees were cut down over the course of several days and somehow hidden on private land adjacent to the forest.

The couple was caught after the Conservation Officer was tipped off to the fact that trees were going missing from the forest. The officer then discovered the aforementioned stash o’ trees and eventually spotted the male suspect carrying bundles of illegally cut trees.

The suspect was arrested and apparently had no problem naming his accomplice, who was found a short distance away, bundling stolen tree tops in the county forest land.

The couple claimed they didn’t know they were stealing from county-managed land, but did allegedly admit that they knew they were stealing.

They were both charged with theft of timber and misdemeanor trespass. The male suspect was also charged with violation of a protection order that had been put in place by his female accomplice after he was convicted earlier this year of domestic assault against her.

All this discussion of trouble with the trees means I have no choice but to embed this classic:

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.