A wily woodsman is believed to have filched 5,000 trees from the Idaho Panhandle National Forest.
Stanley K. Wolfe, fingered by the federal government, was acquitted by a U.S. District Court jury that decided he had been entrapped.More than two years later, the U.S. Forest Service is still trying to collect $307,000 from the St. Maries logger - double the value of the pine, fir, larch and hemlock cut from the northern Idaho forest.
Wolfe's attorney, James Siebe, advised him not to talk about the case.
Here's how forest service officials believe it happened:
In December 1986, Wolfe was high bidder on the Hoodoo timber sale, which included a partial cut within the Deception Creek Experimental Forest. In August 1988, agency researcher Russell Graham noticed some trees were missing from the experimental site.
Crews began to tally the missing trees.
In October, forest technician Ron Deon said he overheard a discussion between Wolfe and employee Roger Carlen during which Wolfe supposedly said he would be willing to pay $1,000 to someone willing to lose the forest service tally sheets.
Deon reported the conversation to a supervisor. In November, assistant U.S. attorney Ron Howen, the forest's law officer, Jerry Moore, and Deon made arrangements to talk with Wolfe again.
Deon, wearing a tape recorder, met Wolfe and Carlen at a restaurant while Moore and a Coeur d'Alene police officer waited in a nearby parking lot. Another forest service agent, Brent Jacobson, aimed a video camera at the restaurant window.
During breakfast, Moore said, Wolfe asked Deon how many pages he could lose from the 137-page tally of missing trees and then gave him $1,000.
Later that day, in a shopping center parking lot, Deon gave Wolfe some tally sheets. Moore said he stopped Wolfe's truck a few minutes later and told him he was under investigation for timber theft and bribery. He asked for the tally sheets back.
"Why? I paid for them," Moore said Wolfe responded.
Federal grand juries met in Boise to consider the evidence, but Howen concluded that he could not prove a charge of theft.
"The wood had all been milled," Howen said. "There was no way to expressly link up trees coming off that sale with what went through the mills."
Wolfe and Carlen were charged with bribery. After a three-day trial in December, a Moscow jury acquitted them.
"We definitely felt it was entrapment, that they probably wouldn't have made an offer of a bribe unless they were consistently badgered," juror Kathryn Tacke of Coeur d'Alene said. "Our government isn't supposed to do that."
David Faulkner, a contract sale officer, has sent the logger two bills for $307,000. That represents double stumpage, which the government can charge if someone willfully damages or cuts undesignated trees.
If Wolfe ignores a third bill, Faulkner will turn the matter over to the agency's claims collection staff.