STAMFORD, Vt. -- A Pownal logger cut $40,000 worth of timber on private land without the owners' permission or knowledge, Vermont State Police said.
Robert Kobelia, 57, of Bennington, who owns Northeast Wood Products, has been charged with grand larceny after Trooper Jesse Robson said Kobelia logged timber from a parcel of land owned by a Connecticut couple.
According to Robson, Kobelia said he thought he made a verbal agreement in 2003 with landowners Lynn and Walter Nightingale to log the land. Robson said Kobelia acknowledged he never paid the Nightingales and blamed a billing error caused by a computer crash.
Kobelia said the timber was worth $13,126, and also said his assets, including Northeast Wood Products, are in foreclosure. The property is slated for a foreclosure auction this month.
Robson said the Nightingales received a number of bids to log the land in 2003, but Kobelia's was the lowest. The couple later decided against logging the land.
In 2008, the Nightingales approached a forester about obtaining a value for the timber. The forester informed them the land had been logged four years earlier.
In January 2009, the Nightingales sued Robert Kobelia, Kristena Kobelia, Lani Candelora, Dennis Candelora and Northeast Wood Products for $60,000 for the timber and the damage done to their property from the logging operation.
Walter Nightingale said he spoke with Kobelia in November 2008 over the telephone, and Kobelia claimed it was
In response to the suit, Kobelia said the timber contract had been verbally approved over the telephone on Dec. 23, 2003, and was mailed to the Nightingales on that day. Kobelia said the harvest was worth $13,126, and he agreed the Nightingales had not been paid.
The Candeloras were added to the suit after the Nightingales claimed that Kobelia transferred a portion of real estate he owned in Pownal to the Candeloras to prevent it from being used to pay the restitution. The Nightingales asked that a writ of attachment for $60,000 be placed on the property, pending the final judgment on the suit. Their motion states that Lani Candelora is Kobelia's daughter.
In July 2009, Judge David Suntag granted the writ, saying the transfer was done in an effort to avoid creditors, including the Nightingales. The Candeloras, represented by Stephen Saltonstall, a Manchester attorney, then claimed the writ of attachment on the property conferred to them by Kobelia would harm the value of the portion they owned prior to the transfer.
Kobelia is scheduled to appear in Bennington District Court for an arraignment hearing on Jan. 26.