Timber thief facing 9 felony counts

Published on Monday, 7 April 2014 23:29 - Written by Adam Russell, arussell@tylerpaper.com

A timber thief faces nine felony counts after a lengthy investigation into disreputable loggers stealing acres of East Texas pine and hardwood trees.

Texas A&M Forest Service law enforcement investigators arrested Christopher Clay Sprayberry, of Texarkana, following a months-long joint investigation by forest service investigators and the Upshur County District Attorney’s office.

Forest Service Chief Law Enforcement officer Les Rogers said Sprayberry had been involved in about two dozen thefts Upshur, Cass and Harrison counties during the past several months.

Authorities began their investigation following various reports and allegations made against Sprayberry while employed at Ark-La-Tex Logging in Texarkana, Ark.

Rogers said Sprayberry and his accomplices are accused of preying on trusting landowners, especially the elderly.

Landowners were promised higher prices for timber and that crews would leave harvested lands in “pristine” condition when logging was completed.

Instead, thieves cleared valuable pine and hardwoods and left debris and damage without paying landowners a dime, he said.

“By all accounts, this is another example of someone taking advantage of our citizens,” said Upshur County District Attorney Billy Byrd. “While these investigations are very time consuming, these indictments should stand as a warning for other individuals that might consider stealing timber and robbing our natural resources.”

Byrd thanked forest service investigators for helping bring timber thieves to justice.

Rogers warned landowners about other schemers.

“If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is,” Rogers said.

Rogers recommends landowners watch each other’s properties and report all logging activities immediately.

He said landowners always should check logger references and receive bids from multiple buyers. Landowners also should clearly mark property lines to avoid encroachment and to find reputable, knowledgeable help if you are not familiar with the timber business.

To report suspected timber theft activity call the Timber Theft Hotline at 1-800-364-3470 or the Texas A&M Forest Service at 936-639-8113.