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Aug 28, 2010 3:17 PM by Chris Welty

3 Arrested in 2 Separate Timber Probes

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A Vernon Parish logger iions
between Muslims and Americans. Rauf said tish timber without paying, and
two brothers from northwest Louisiana are accused of taking
$336,000 in timber from Caddo Parish without paying most of the 55
owners.
Garvis W. Hickman, 34, of Hornbeck, was arrested Thursday,
accused of failing to pay landowners in the White City community
near Hornbeck, Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain
said Friday. He said Hickman's bond was set at $5,000.
He said Ricky Whitaker, 42, of Shreveport, and Jerry Whitaker,
52, of Mansfield, were booked Wednesday and Thursday on felony
theft charges after a two-month investigation.
He said they're accused of harvesting 200 acres of timber over
10 months last year and failing to pay the majority of rightful
owners.
It was not immediately clear whether any of the men had
attorneys. Hickman did not have a listed phone number and messages
left at listings for Whitakers were not immediately answered
Saturday.
Absentes landowners of the Caroline and Rafe Travis Estates near
Frierson, owned collectively by 55 members of a family estate,
filed complaints with state officials after discovering their
timber had been cut without authorization.
Forestry Enforcement Manager Jim Baldwin said the Whitakers,
operating as Whitaker Timber and Whitaker Logging, bought timber
rights from one landowner who held a 5 percent interest in the
property and another person who held none.
Baldwin said the Whitakers failed to verify the ownership of the
timber and did not get signed contracts from 80 percent of the
landowners, as required by law. When the timber was sold, Baldwin
said the Whitakers failed to pay the legitimate owners and did not
set up an escrow account for those who could not be located.
"The Whitakers are veteran loggers and failed to secure the
basic ownership information of the property," Baldwin said. "A
simple check with the DeSo orParish Assessor's Office and Clerk of
Court would have revealed that the persons selling the timber were
not the sole owners. In addition, an adjoining landowner warned the
Whitakers that the person selling the timber probably didn't have
the authority to do so."

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