W. Paris man could face 10 years in prison

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WEST PARIS  — Former SAD 17 Director and West Paris Selectman Toby Whitman is set to appear in in the Unified Criminal Court in Augusta for a dispositional conference on January 9.

Whitman was indicted last month by a Kennebec County grand jury on a charge of theft by misapplication of more than $10,000 worth of property.

According to the indictment filed November 15 in the Unified Criminal Court in Augusta, the charge stems from action that took place on or between January 1, 2016 and December 15, 2017  when Whitman committed theft in Fayette (a town in Kennnebec County) by failing to meet an obligation to make a specific payment or other disposition in the agreed amount.

Further the indictment charges that Whitman did” intentionally or recklessly fail to make the required payment or disposition of the property or services and dealt with the property or services obtained or withheld as his own.”

The value of the services was more than $10,000, a Class B charge that according to state law is  punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000.

While details of the charges were not available, Lt. Matt Gomes of the Maine Forest Service said that generally these charges involve a logging operation of some sort where one party feels they have been cheated by the payment.

“It’s a common problem,” he said of the hundreds complaints they investigate each year.

The complaints generally emerge from lot owners feeling they did not get paid the full amount the lot owner felt was due, he said.

Gomes said there are different laws on the book that they can utilize in council with the district attorney’s office in bringing cases like this to court.

Gomes said a major problem for lot owners is not requiring a written contract.

“Definitely people don’t do written contracts as much as they could,” he said.

Gomes said that one of the most important things people should do in addition to a written contract when looking to log a tree stand is to hire a licensed forester.

“They (a licensed forester) know what’s there for timber, they know the market, where the product will go. They can monitor it,” he explained.

By paying a licensed forester to keep an eye out on lot cuts, the lot owner will probably save money, he said.

Instead of being told that a lot can bring in $20,000 to $30,000, then being paid $1,600, for example, Gomes said hire a professional to be sure to obtain a fair deal.

“You’re paying them to keep an eye out for it. You will probably save (money,)” he said. “Do not decide on the spot when someone knocks on your door and tells you you will make big money or we can make you money.”

ldixon@sunmediagroup.net