WINLOCK, WA -- Harold Clause Kupers, owner of J&L Tonewood, a lumber mill producing figured big leaf maple tone wood for the custom guitar industry, was indicted by the Department of Justice for violating the Lacey Act by purchasing wood illegally harvested from the Gifford Pinchot National Forest located in Southwest Washington state.

Kupers was charged with receipt of stolen property and seven violations of the Lacey Act. Also charged were three timber cutters -- James Miller, Ryan Justice and Kevin Mullins -- for theft of government property and damaging government property by illegally harvesting the maple trees in the national forest in November and December 2011 and May 2012.

The DOJ alleges Miller, Justice and Mullins made approximately 50 sales of the big leaf maple from the Gifford Pinchot National Forest to Kupers, who knew it was stolen, the agency claims. He then sold that wood as billets to out-of-state companies for more than $800,000.


Lacey Act Amendment Goes Before Senate

Reintroduced by U.S. Senator Rand Paul and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Freedom from Over-Criminalization and Unjust Seizures (FOCUS) Act of 2015 would amend the Lacey Act by substituting criminal penalties with a “reasonable” civil penalty system, and reducing maximum fines

According to the indictment, in November and December 2011, the three tree cutters received training and assistance from Kupers in illegal harvesting of big leaf maples from various sites in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. The men would seek out “figured maple,” which is particularly valuable for musical instruments.

J&L Tonewoods describes itself on its website as the "Home of Figured Big Leaf Maple" and says it "has been involved in the tone wood industry for approximately 12 years. We supply some of the larger guitar manufactures with Figured Big Leaf Maple from the North West. We specialize in Big Leaf Maple for the Electric Guitar industry. We are however expanding our supply to include Acoustic guitar sound boards as well as back and sides. We also supply Turning wood, Craft wood, Gun stocks and other stringed instrument wood pieces. We are attempting to make available, quality wood, graded properly, to the Luthier community." 

All four men could face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

“The trees in our national forests belong to all Americans and should not be chopped up to enrich a few,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. “In this case a beautiful and valued resource that is home to endangered species, was felled with some parts just discarded on the forest floor.  We are prosecuting not only the tree cutters, but also the mill owner who created a market for the sale of this stolen property.”

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.