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Morehouse Parish man sentenced on timber theft related charges

September 10, 2009

Morehouse Parish man sentenced on timber theft related charges
A Morehouse Parish man was sentenced Tuesday, Sept. 8, in U.S. District Court in Monroe on federal mail fraud charges involving timber theft, Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M., said.
Mitch West, 45, of 10642 Cooper Lake Road, Bastrop, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Robbie James to serve four months in federal prison in Beaumont, Texas.
Strain said West’s sentencing was the result of a joint investigation by Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) agents and the United States Postal Inspection Service.
Strain said the LDAF investigation found West logged tracts of timber for six landowners from May 2002 through Nov. 2004 on a pay-as-cut basis but failed to pay the landowners for all the loads. Payments in the form of checks were sent directly to West’s home in Bastrop.
 Forestry Enforcement Officer Jason Watts said West pleaded guilty Jan. 30, 2009to multiple counts of mail fraud involving timber that was cut for landowners in West Carroll and Morehouse parishes.
In addition to the jail time, West was also ordered to pay restitution of $20,112 and placed on three years supervised probation. West will remain free on bond and surrender Jan. 4, 2010 to begin serving his sentence.
“These timber tracts are often a landowner’s retirement investment or children’s college tuition and I hate to see anyone cheated out of what is rightfully theirs,” Strain said. “I am always pleased when LDAF investigators, like Jason Watts who worked this investigation, can see a theft case through to sentencing. They take theft seriously and will continue to seek justice for those who have been taken advantage of by con artists.”
Strain advised landowners and all interested parties to report suspected timber theft to LDAF Baton Rouge headquarters at 225-925-4500.