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Coeburn men sentenced to prison terms for stealing Forest Service equipment

Staff • Apr 2, 2008 at 12:00 AM

BIG STONE GAP — Three Coeburn men have been sentenced to varying terms in federal prison for stealing equipment from U.S. Forest Service recreational areas in Wise County, U.S. Attorney John L. Brownlee said Wednesday.

Gary Don Rose, 44; Jason Neal Puckett, 24; and Robert Kevin Gouge, 45, all of Coeburn, were sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Western District in Big Stone Gap on March 25 for stealing equipment from recreation areas on U.S. Forest Service property.

“These three men have admitted to stealing from the United States government, and for those crimes they will spend time in federal prison,” Brownlee said. “All of those involved in this investigation did a terrific job in discovering not only those who stole these items, but recovering a majority of what was taken and returning that property to the Forest Service.”

Rose was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment, Puckett received a 12-month sentence, and Gouge was sentenced to six months imprisonment for their roles in the thefts. In addition, all three have been ordered to pay the Forest Service $2,761.66 in restitution. Rose, Puckett and Gouge had each previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy and theft of government property for their roles in the theft of equipment from the Forest Service Work Center and Cane Patch Recreation Area in Wise County.

The charges arose out of an investigation begun on Jan. 5, 2006, after Forest Service employees discovered that a padlock was missing from an equipment shed at the Forest Service Work Center. The subsequent investigation revealed that the three men had used a stolen key to open padlocks on equipment sheds at the Work Center, the Cane Patch Recreation Area, and the Bark Camp Recreation Area.

Numerous pieces of equipment including chain saws, lawn mowers and trimmers had been stolen from the Work Center and the Cane Patch Recreation Area. Nothing was reported stolen from the shed at the Bark Camp Recreation Area because it had been emptied for the winter.

The total value of the stolen equipment was approximately $14,920. With the assistance of the Wise and Dickenson County sheriffs offices, a majority of the stolen equipment was ultimately recovered and returned to the Forest Service.

The investigation of the case was conducted by the Wise County Sheriff’s Office, Dickenson County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Forest Service. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer R. Bockhorst prosecuted the case.

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