Boyd Van Fleet Pleads Guilty in U.S. Federal Cour
The United States Attorney's Office announced that during a federal court session in Missoula, on January 25, 2011, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Carolyn S. Ostby, BOYD VAN FLEET, a 38-year-old resident of Greybull, Wyoming, pled guilty to theft of government property. Sentencing has been set for May 5, 2011. He is currently released on special conditions.
In an Offer of Proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Racicot, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:
On September 24, 2008, VAN FLEET was encountered by a BLM forester who observed VAN FLEET cutting large standing timber and loading the trees onto a logging trailer in the South Meadow Creek area of Madison County, which is land administered by the BLM. VAN FLEET showed the forester a Forest Service firewood permit and claimed he was cutting the trees for firewood. Madison County law enforcement officers received information the following day that VAN FLEET was stealing timber from federal land.
On September 26, 2008, a BLM ranger went to the South Meadow Creek area and observed 17 stumps from full-sized Douglas Fir trees. The ranger went to VAN FLEET's ranch and saw several cut logs stored in a gravel pit on the property. A BLM special agent went to VAN FLEET's house on September 26, 2008, to talk to him about the possible timber theft. VAN FLEET showed the agent his firewood permit and told him the trees were cut for firewood only. He also agreed to leave the trees in place pending the outcome of the investigation.
On September 27, 2008, VAN FLEET took the agent and the Madison County Sheriff to South Meadow Creek and showed them the trees he cut. He again claimed he was cutting the trees for firewood only.
On October 3, 2008, the agent and others visited the Garnet Wide Plank Floor company in Norris. The owners of the business stated that VAN FLEET sold them 10 logs on September 26, 2008, for $1,440. They provided the agent with a copy of the receipt. VAN FLEET had sold the logs just a few hours before he met with the agent on September 26, 2008.
The agent took samples of two of the logs from the flooring business and matched them to stumps in the South Meadow Creek area. While on the mountain, the agent collected two samples from two other stumps cut by VAN FLEET.
On October 8, 2008, another BLM employee took those two samples and matched them with two of the other logs at the flooring company (for a total of four matching logs).
On October 7, 2008, BLM employees went to the South Meadow Creek area and took photos of the cut stumps, took GPS measurements of their locations, and took stump samples from the remaining stumps.
Several months later, on March 21, 2009, the Madison County Sheriff flew over VAN FLEET's ranch and saw the logs still in the gravel pit. A federal search warrant for the logs and other evidence was executed on March 31, 2009. The Sheriff could not seize the trees due to the weather conditions, but he took pictures of the logs and seized other pieces of evidence, including a firewood permit that VAN FLEET filled out that indicated he cut five cords of firewood on September 24, 2008.
VAN FLEET faces possible penalties of 1 year in prison, a $100,000 fine and 1 year supervised release.
The investigation was a cooperative effort between the Law Enforcement and Investigations Division of the Bureau of Land Management and the Madison County Sheriff's Office.
A copy of the Offer of Proof can be obtained by contacting Sally Frank at (406) 247-4638.