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'This has taken years off my life:' Family says they're owed thousands for cut timber.

Civil dispute or case of theft in timber cutting deal?

Their dream home was supposed to be on family land owned for four generations in Sterrett in Shelby County. But Robert Cosper says for his grandfather to see the property now, he'd be devastated. "I'm glad he's not here to see it, makes me sick," said Cosper when we first talked to him and his fiance in mid-March.

He blames JCS Forestry Services, LLC owned by Jeremy Schleicher. "He's driving around with my money, my timber and nobody's doing anything about it," explains a frustrated Cosper. He and his fiance Arlene signed a timber deed with Schleicher's company to cut hardwoods and pines in May of 2017. But months later there were red flags including broken promises to pay.

They claim they're owed $30,000 and want Schleicher criminally charged for a $5,000 bad check they tell ABC3340 News was given to them by Schleicher. But from the State Attorney General's Office down to the Shelby County District Attorney's office, they keep hearing "it's a civil matter."

The D.A.'s office tells us they are aware of the case but there is nothing pending. Investigations for the Forestry Commission are now handled by ALEA. That agency also did not follow up to investigate on behalf of the Cospers.

Cosper could file a civil suit, but he says that would cost thousands more and there's no guarantee the family could collect if they won.

We heard a similar story from Nancy Fincher in Pell City. "It was a beautiful piece of property, he trashed," recalls Fincher. She explains she and her husband were given an $11,000 check to hold until Schleicher's company cut and sold their timber. She says he stopped payment on the check and the promised road on her land as part of the deal was a disaster. She spent thousands fixing it. There were also other environmental issues she says she got stuck with.

"I want this man out of business," says a frustrated Fincher. She and her husband were awarded a civil judgement against Schleicher but when he declared bankruptcy in federal court under his old company, Dixie Hauling, she was unable to collect.

ABC3340 tried to contact Schleicher at his home, and through phone calls and emails. His attorney Bruce Gordon said his client would not interview with us and claims JCS Forestry was fired from the Cosper job and told not to return.

Alabama Forestry's Jason Dockery says if you need timber cut, hire what's called a registered forester or consultant. Many landowners have no idea how to get the best price for their timber or oversee the job. Consultants will bid the job and monitor its progress to be sure waterways and the land are protected.

Helpful information from the AL Forestry Commission:

http://www.forestry.alabama.gov/PDFs/Selling_Your_Timber_color.pdf


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