Coast man charged with timber thefts

By Kevin Wheeler - bio | email

A Saucier man has been charged with three counts of timber theft. Harold Simmons, 54 was arrested Monday and posted bond.

Simmons is accused of stealing over about $375,000 worth of timber on 16th section land in Pearl River County. All of the money yielded by the land goes back to the states school districts.

"It is not to be tolerated here or in any other county in Mississippi," said Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann. "We are going to be watching on each part of any timber sale in the state of Mississippi on 16th section land."

Investigators said Simmons allegedly reported cutting less timber than what he was actually taking from three sites throughout the county.   They say at least 11,000 tons of timber was missing.

"It's our intent that this sends a strong message that timber theft and diversion of stumpage will not be tolerated," said State Forester Charlie Morgan.Hosemann said Simmons committed the thefts in a time where school districts are pinching for pennies because of that prosecutors will seek full restitution.

"These schools have to struggle mightily to do their core mission which is educate our children," said Hosemann.

If convicted, Simmons faces up to 15 years in prison and $15,000 in fines.  All parties say they have the evidence and are ready to proceed with the case.

"The 16th section is a public trust and it is for the benefit of the school children and I can assure you my job will be to continue to protect the interest of the school children in the state," said 15th District Attorney, Hal Kittrell

Simmons is out on bond.  Prosecutors said the case will be presented to the June grand jury.

Copyright 2010 WDAM. All rights reserved.