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Timber Theft Suspect to Pay Restitution in Bledsoe County

Friday, September 24, 2021 | 01:42pm

Note:  This information clarifies the press release issued Sept. 24 regarding the resolution of the case.

NASHVILLE – A Pikeville man has been ordered to pay restitution for damages arising from the wrongful taking of timber logs from Bledsoe State Forest.

In June, John T. Simmons was charged with theft, trespass, and vandalism after he was seen loading the logs onto a trailer alongside a forest road. A grand jury later indicted Simmons on all charges.  In August Simmons entered an agreement with prosecutors to pay restitution to the Tennessee Department of Agriculture for damages arising from the incident, as well as courts costs and other requirements. If Simmons fulfills his obligations under the agreement, charges in the case will be dismissed.

The Tennessee Agricultural Crime Unit (ACU) and the Division of Forestry worked with Bledsoe County’s law enforcement and district attorney to make charges on this case. The logs taken were part of a downed timber lot that was listed for bid under salvage sale.

“The estimated value of the timber and its retrieval costs were part of the damages assessed.” ACU Captain Greg Whitehead said. “When a person knowingly takes timber without the owner’s consent it can lead to criminal prosecution, and ACU will follow every lead and use every tool at our disposal to find and to prosecute timber theft.”

ACU is a specialized unit dedicated to investigating and enforcing state laws and regulations related to agriculture, forestry, animal health, and agribusinesses. Visit the ACU’s webpage to learn more, www.tn.gov/agriculture/consumers/ag-crime-unit.

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Division of Forestry protects Tennessee’s forests by fighting wildfires, coordinating hazard emergency response, providing prescribed fire guidance and contract services, as well as wildland fire training. Additionally, the Division promotes the responsible use of forest resources by assisting landowners, providing quality seedlings, monitoring insects and diseases, improving urban forests, managing state forests, protecting water quality, and collecting forest inventory data. The Division also works to promote primary and secondary forest industries to stimulate the state’s economy. Visit www.tn.gov/agriculture/forests for more information.