Saucier man accused of stealing 16th Section timber



State officials said a Saucier man is charged with stealing about $375,000 worth of timber from school land in Pearl River County.

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said Harold Edwin Simmons, 54, was hired to cut timber on 16th Section land but didn’t report all the timber he harvested. Hosemann said a tip led to a six-month investigation and Simmons’ arrest Monday on three counts of timber theft.

Simmons is free on $15,000 bond after his release Tuesday from the Pearl River County jail. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison, $15,000 in fines and a court order to repay the money.

Hosemann’s office oversees 16th Section land, which is land held in trust for public education.

A school board can lease the land, but state law requires the school district get all proceeds from timber harvested.

“Stealing $375,000 worth of timber is literally taking money from our school children,” Hosemann said. “With schools having to make do with less, that money could have gone toward teacher salaries, building upgrades — the overall education of our children.”

Hosemann said Simmons was hired to cut trees on two parcels of land held for Poplarville schools and one parcel held for the county school district.

He said state agriculture investigators checked with paper mills on timber sales and found a paper trail of evidence.

Agriculture Commissioner Lester Spell called the loss to the school districts “especially disheartening.”

The Mississippi Forestry Commission assisted with the investigation.

Hosemann said timber thefts statewide in the past five years represent more than $3 million in losses.

To report timber theft on 16th Section land, contact the school district, Hosemann’s office or the state agriculture or forestry offices.
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