James Travis Johnson of Leesville was arrested on timber theft and other charges. The arrest was made in Rapides Parish and Johnson was released two days later on $15,000 bond, according to agents with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture & Forestry.
In addition to the charge of timber theft under $25,000, LDAF agents allege the 48-year-old Johnson, formerly of Pitkin, is accused of making false statements regarding the rightful ownership of the forest products.
According to an LDAF press release, agents received a complaint from the owner of a 20-acre tract of timberland in Vernon Parish alleging he believed he had not been paid for all of the timber harvested there. Investigators allege Johnson "failed to pay for loads of timber valued at $1,860.74.
On the day Johnson posted the $15,000 bond, he was charged with two additional counts of timber left under $25,000 in Rapids Parish after two other landowners. One landowner alleged to LDAF investigators that Johnson was hired to cut his 4-acre tract but the landowner was never paid. A different landowner with property adjacent to the four acres told agents that Johnson logged his timber without his consent, according to LDAF.
Johnson was booked into the Rapides Parish Jail on Aug. 11 and released Aug. 12 on $21,500 bond, according to the online site, Rapides Parish Inmate Inquiry.
"Timber theft can take a variety of forms — from harvesting timber without the landowner’s knowledge or consent to entering into a formal agreement and not paying them the full purchase price," according to the LDAF press release.
“Timber theft is more common than most people realize,” said LDAF Commissioner Mike Strain. “If you are unfamiliar with timber volumes, current prices, and potential bidders, reach out to the LDAF Forestry group to help you determine the worth of your timber. And most importantly, if you believe fraud is occurring with your timber agreement, contact the LDAF Forestry Enforcement group immediately as we work diligently with local officials to help bring those responsible for timber theft.”
According to LDAF, Johnson faces a fine of up to $5,000 and/or up to five years in jail for each count of timber theft; however, the office issued a reminder that people accused of any crime are considered innocent until proven guilty in court.
LDAF also advises that anyone suspecting a forestry-related crime should contact the LDAF Office of Forestry at 225-925-4500 or the LDAF 24-hour hotline at 855-452-5323.