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Grinches steal 2,000 northern Minn. spruces to sell as Christmas trees

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A northern Minnesota couple is facing criminal charges for trespassing on county land and chopping down nearly 2,000 black spruce trees to sell as Christmas trees.

The Duluth News Tribune reports 22-year-old George Morterud and 23-year-old Tara Herrick, both of Meadowlands, had been cutting down small trees and tree tops on county-managed forestland west of Toivola from Oct. to early Nov. and stashing them, a total of 1,970, on private land nearby, according to the criminal complaint.

The two told investigators that they were preparing to sell the trees in Rochester for $6 to $9 a pop, amounting to about $15,000, the newspaper reported.

There's a big seasonal market for black spruce tree tops in northern Minnesota. The newspaper says land owners often sell the rights for loggers to cut trees where they're overabundant, which also serves as forest management.

Morterud and Herrick were charged with gross misdemeanor theft of timber and misdemeanor trespassing. If the couple would have successfully completed the sale of the trees, they would have been charged with felony theft.

CNN reported there's little evidence of any black market for Christmas trees in the United States. Authorities have said there are a few bad Santas swiping Christmas trees every year, usually for their own livings rooms.

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