Man charged with stealing timber in Stamford
STAMFORD -- The owner of Northeast Wood Products is being charged with grand larceny after Vermont State Police said he logged $40,000 worth of timber from a parcel of land in Stamford, owned by a Connecticut couple, without their consent.
According to a press release from Trooper Jesse Robson, Robert Kobelia, 57, of Bennington, approached Lynn and Walter Nightingale in December 2003 and offered to pay them in exchange for allowing him to harvest timber from their property. Robson said the Nightingales reported that they had been offered a number of bids for the timber and that Kobelia’s was the lowest. After that, Robson said, the Nightingales decided not to have the land logged.
Robson said the Nightingales learned in 2008 that the property had been logged by people acting on behalf of Kobelia and that the logging operation had occurred in January and February 2004.
Robson said that on Thursday, Kobelia was interviewed at the VSP barracks in Shaftsbury. According to the release, Kobelia said he thought there was a verbal agreement with the Nightingales for the timber to be harvested. Kobelia acknowledged to police that the Nightingales had never been paid for the timber and blamed a billing error caused by a computer crash.
Robson said Kobelia disputed the $40,000 quote for the timber. He also said that all of his assets, including Northeast Wood Products, are in foreclosure. That property in Pownal is slated for a foreclosure auction this month.
Civil suit filed
In January 2009, the Nightingales filed civil suit over the timber in Bennington Superior Court, naming Robert Kobelia, Kristena Kobelia, Lani Candelora, Dennis Candelora and Northeast Wood Products as defendants. In their complaint, the Nightingales say that they are seeking $60,000 to compensate for the timber, as well as for damage done to their property from the logging operation.
In their complaint, the Nightingales said they learned that the property had been logged after speaking to Forester Bruce Richardson about obtaining a value for the timber. They said Richardson seemed confused as to why they would want a quote when the land had been logged four years earlier.
Walter Nightingale said he spoke with Kobelia in November 2008 over the telephone, and that Kobelia claimed it was an oversight and would look for records. Nightingale said that on Dec. 5, 2008, he spoke with Kobelia again and that he reported having found the appropriate records but had not reviewed them and would need until Dec. 16 to do so. Nightingale said he never heard back from Kobelia.
In Kobelia’s response, filed March 23 2009, he states that the timber contract was verbally approved over the telephone on Dec. 23, 2003, and on Dec. 26, 2003, was mailed to the Nightingales. Kobelia said that the lumber harvested was worth $13,126 and agreed that the Nightingales had not been paid that amount.
"NWP has researched its records and finds that $13,126 was harvested in Plaintiff’s behalf and was not paid at completion by oversight," according to the response. "It was caused by changes in NWP personnel and switching to a different computerized accounting system. We would like to set up a payment schedule all can agree. Plaintiff unnecessarily expended funds in this matter because they chose to do so of their own accord. This matter could and still can be settled out of court."
The Candeloras were added to the suit after the Nightingales, represented by Dan Davis, of Fisher & Fisher, a Brattleboro based law firm, claimed that Kobelia transferred a portion of real estate he owned in Pownal to the Candeloras in order to prevent it from being used to pay the restitution. The Nightingales requested 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.
On July 13, Judge David Suntag granted the writ of attachment, saying that the transfer was done in an effort to avoid creditors including the Nightingales.
The Candeloras, represented by Stephen Saltonstall, a Manchester attorney, then claimed that 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.
The Candeloras claimed that, prior to the transfer, Robert Kobelia and Kristena Kobelia each owned 40 percent of the parcel, while Lani Candelora and Dennis Candelora, owned 10 percent each. They also claimed that they had nothing to do with any alleged fraudulent logging activity involving the Nightingales.
In August, Suntag vacated the prior order for the writ of attachment and dissolved it.
Kobelia is scheduled to appear in Bennington District Court for an arraignment hearing on Jan. 26, 2010.
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