KAUFMAN, Texas – Texas A&M Forest Service Law Enforcement Investigators and the Kaufman County Sheriff’s Office arrested Frances Charline Lee Cole, 51, of Kaufman, Texas for theft of more than $2,500 and less than $30,000 in Hopkins County on March 2, 2022.
Cole entered into a real estate agreement for 42 acres in Hopkins County, she then convinced a logging company that she owned the property and entered into a contract to sell the timber. A timber deed was filed with the county clerk’s office and the logger paid her a lump sum of $8,000. Cole then backed out of the real estate sale of the property, so when the logger returned to cut the tract, they found out they had been deceived.
“Essentially, the logger paid her for timber that wasn’t hers that she had no rights to sell,” said Jonathon Keller, Texas A&M Forest Service Law Enforcement Investigator. “Although our agency commonly advises landowners how to recognize and protect against cases of theft when selling their timber, landowners are not the only ones who should be diligent when entering timber sale agreements. All parties involved should have a thorough knowledge of who they are dealing with and have all the facts before entering contracts.”
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 and even stealing timber or money from logging companies.
Any entity seeking guidance on buying or selling timber, can contact their local Texas A&M Forest Service office. Texas A&M Forest Service field staff assists with the process of securing the services of a professional resource manager to help select trees for harvest, estimate values and find potential buyers.
To report suspected timber theft or suspicious activity, call the Texas A&M Forest Service Law Enforcement Timber Theft Hotline at 1-800-364-3470. The Texas A&M Forest Service Law Enforcement Department works diligently with local officials to help bring those responsible for timber theft and other violations of the natural resources code to justice.