MEDWAY, Maine — Maine Forest Service rangers and state police served search warrants at several locations Wednesday as part of an investigation into a report of about $20,000 worth of wood allegedly cut illegally from a Hartland timber lot.
The dozen rangers and state police spent the morning and part of the afternoon serving the four search warrants on a Medway logging business, the Gateway Motor Inn, and two town residences, forest service Lt. Jeff Currier said.
Currier called the investigation one of the most significant alleged timber thefts rangers have investigated this year. Rangers handle hundreds of such complaints annually, he said.
“Most people don’t understand the value of wood,” Currier said as he stood outside the Inn. “I’ve seen several [logging] trucks pass by here, and from my knowledge of market conditions, I bet that each carried about $1,000 worth of wood. Wood gets very expensive.”
The investigators were searching for weight-scale slips and trip tickets, items that loggers and truckers use to verify the amount of wood they haul and the paper or saw mills they deliver it to, Currier said.
Investigators say the wood hauled from Hartland went to close to a dozen mills statewide. He identified the logging company, but the Bangor Daily News is withholding the name because no one has been charged with a crime.
An argument between a landowner and a logger might seem like a civil dispute, but most of the complaints rangers handle are criminal matters because they often involve fraudulent bookkeeping and paperwork, Currier said.
Wednesday’s case could result in Class B felony charges, which typically carry as many as 10 years of imprisonment and fines, he said.
“This is a case that has risen to the level of [possible] criminal conduct that the forest service and the district attorney’s office are intent on pursuing,” Currier said.
Currier said he hopes to have the investigation completed by Friday.