A Winlock wood buyer was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to six months in prison, six months of home detention and three years of supervised release and $159,692 in restitution for violating the Lacey Act by trafficking in big leaf maple illegally cut on national forest land.
Harold Clause Kupers, 48, owner and operator of a now defunct company, J & L Tonewoods, had pleaded guilty in Nov. 2015 to purchasing multiple cuts of wood without requiring the seller to show a valid Specialized Forest Products Permit, as required by law. He admitted he suspected the wood had been illegally cut in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.
At the sentencing hearing U.S. District Judge Benjamin H. Settle said, “You knew you were getting stolen wood, but you hid behind ignorance.”
According to records in the case, in April 2012, law enforcement officers with U.S. Forest Service met with Kupers and specifically informed him that he was required by state law to review documentation for all persons from whom he purchased maple. Despite being put on notice, he continued to buy figured maple without requiring the permit. Kupers then sold this figured maple to purchasers in interstate commerce for total revenues of $499,414.
Three men who illegally cut the wood previously pleaded guilty to theft of public property or conspiracy to steal public property for illegally harvesting the maple trees in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in November and December 2011 and May 2012.
James Miller, 36, of Morton was sentenced in February 2016 to six months in prison and three years of supervised release. Ryan Justice, 28, of Randle, was sentenced in December 2015 to 15 months in prison. Kevin Mullins, 56, of Packwood, is scheduled for sentencing June 6, 2016.