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You can't just take Christmas tree tops from a national forest

He stole the tree tops, then sold them to wholesalers.

A 70-year-old Grand Rapids man pleaded guilty to stealing thousands of tree tops from the Chippewa National Forest.

Joseph Leon Edminster pleaded guilty to one count of theft of government property after stealing 2,700 black spruce tree tops from the Cass Lake-area forest between October 2008 and October 2014, U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger announced Friday.

Edminster would take the tree tops and then sell them to wholesalers for $1.50 to $2.50. The wholesalers would then sell them to retail outlets as Christmas decorations. Luger estimates Edminster stole an estimated $24,199.50 worth of spruce tops from federal land.

Edminster could face up to 10 years in prison, according to sentencing guidelines. But his sentence hasn't been determined yet, Ben Petok of the U.S. Attorney's Office told GoMN.

It's illegal to cut or damage any timber, tree or forest product on National Forest land, unless you have authorized permission. The U.S. Forest Service does give special permits so people can cut down a tree to use for holiday decorations. Without one, you could face a $500 fine and/or six months in prison, federal law says.

“We will vigorously pursue those responsible for such acts, dedicating any and all investigative resources needed in order to bring these matters to a just conclusion,” said Darla Lenz, the Chippewa National Forest supervisor. “The public can rest assured that this matter has been resolved and we will continue to protect our national forests.”

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