Westfield, Wisconsin man charged with theft of government property
|U.S. Department of Justice
May 6, 2008
United States Attorney
United States Attorney Steven M. Biskupic announced that a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Wisconsin has returned an indictment charging Arthur Polk, 72, of Westfield, Wisconsin and Bradenton, Florida, with one felony count of theft of government property, a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 641.
The indictment alleges that Polk cut timber on land that is subject to a conservation easement held by the United States. The government paid Polk more than $200,000 for this easement, which is administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (“NRCS”), an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture. The terms of the easement deed require the landowner to obtain written authorization from the NRCS before proceeding with any type of cutting. Polk allegedly failed to seek any such authorization.
The easement is part of an ambitious program to preserve “Duffy’s Marsh” in Marquette County, Wisconsin. Duffy’s Marsh is the second largest wetland restoration in the state, and one of the largest in the nation, consisting of 1,722 acres of diverse wetland habitat.
This is believed to be one of the first prosecutions of its kind in the country. According to Assistant United States Attorney Jonathan Koenig, who has been assigned the case, “this prosecution is important because the defendant’s alleged actions have devastated the affected area and resulted in a loss of a bald eagle habitat.” The area, according to the NRCS, will take many years to return to its previous state. A violation of Section 641 is punishable by up to ten years in prison and a fine of as much as $250,000.
It should be noted that an indictment is merely the formal method of charging an individual and does not constitute inference of his or her guilt. An individual is presumed innocent until such time, if ever, that the government establishes his or her guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
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For additional information contact:
Assistant United State Attorney Jonathan H. Koenig
Public Information Officer Dean Puschnig