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Landowners Say $40K in Timber Stolen

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STAMFORD, Vt. — A Connecticut couple are accusing a Bennington man of stealing $40,000 worth of lumber from their wooded property - four years after the alleged crime was committed.

Robert Kobelia, 57, has been cited to appear in Vermont District Court in Bennington on Jan. 26 on a charge of grand larceny.

Lynn and Walter Nightingale of Bolton, Conn., filed a complaint with state police late last year, saying they'd discovered in 2008 that the property had been logged four years before, sometime during January or February 2004, without their consent.

They had reportedly contacted the Kobelia, owner of Northeast Wood Products, who told them that he oversaw the operation, but thought they had a verbal agreement. The Nightingales' told state police they did discuss the possibility of having their land logged, but out of all the bids given to them, Kobelia's was the lowest, and they decided not to have their land logged. 

They hired a forestry consultant, who estimated the value of the standing lumber, as well as a private attorney. State police received a report from the consultant as well as e-mail and faxed correspondence from Kobelia to the victim's attorney, which was used to establish probable cause that a crime had been committed.

Kobelia, 57, was interviewed Dec. 31 at the Shaftsbury barracks. According to police, Kobelia said he felt as though there was a verbal agreement between he and the victim. He acknowledged that he never paid the victims for the logs removed, and stated that was it was because of a billing error after a computer crash. He told troopers that he is currently unable to pay Nightingales.

The forestry consultant placed the value of the logs taken from the victim's property at $40,601.07. During the interview, Kobelia maintained that he knows he has to pay the victims for what was taken, but disputed the amount quoted, and told state police that all of his assets are now in foreclosure. 

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