Timber Theft

Don Staples dstaples at livingston.net
Sat Jun 27 00:35:40 EST 1998

I have just completed the ground work on a new variety of timber theft
that I though
I would bring to your attention.

A retired gentleman called me with this story.   He had retired from the
oil patch
after 30 years as a field supervisor in Venezuela, apparently at a very
good salary,
for he purchased three tracts of land in the '80's when Texas had a real
estate bust. 
RTC property runs cheaper than the neighbor tract.  I digress, after
nearly 15 years
of ownership he contracted with a real estate agent to list the three
tracts for sale. 
The tracts are 8.75 acres, 11 acres, and 18 acres with one grand house
and several
smaller dwellings.  The real estate company ended up leasing the 18
acres and
houses for their home and business.  The contract was a boiler plate
issued by the
Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC).  It basically covered what was for
sale, for
how much , and what the commission would be for the company.  It was an
contract for six months.

Three weeks ago an acquaintance of the owner spoke with him about his
success in
selling the tracts.  Having not heard a word from the real estate
company, my client
drove up to look at the three tracts.  Low and behold, two had the pine
clear cut, and
the third, the real estate office and home, had the timber "thinned".

The real estate agents, fortunately, were not home, so my client looked
up the friend
that had mentioned the "sale' to him.   The friend said the real estate
agents had told
the world that the tracts had been sold, the owner was a happy camper,
and the
agents had their fee.  The friend also mentioned the logger, one I am
very familiar
with, and one not above cutting some one else's property.  The land
owner went to
the logger and asked about the timber, "Yessa, I cut the timber, for
agent)".  Not able to find the agent, my client returned to Houston and
turned it over
to his attorney.

The attorney called my and I did my thing on counting stumps, estimating
and coming up with a finale loss value for the timber and logging.  The
loss of real
property value due to the loss of the trees was not estimated.  The loss
to the land
owner was just under $30,000.00.

Rather than pursue theft charges, my client has determined it best to
file with the
TREC on a breach of fiduciary trust.  Not only hoping to recoup his
loss, but to put
the agent out of business.  Texas takes land fraud serious, and has
difficulty prosecuting timber theft.

The real estate agents lost a potential $72,000.00 in commission over a
little greed
and $30,000.00, and will probably lose their license to practice.

The best way to preserve your rights to you land is to cast your shadow
on it on a
regular basis.  And check out those folks you would do business with
committing to an agreement.
Don Staples

My Ego Stroke:  http://www.livingston.net/dstaples/

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