STRONGSVILLE, Ohio (WJW) – Two people face charges after investigators say a tree on Cleveland Metroparks property was cut down and sold for financial gain.
According to the incident report, the investigation started back in September when the director of natural resources for the Cleveland Metroparks found the black walnut tree “freshly cut.”
She told investigators that the damage also destroyed a recently planted sapling in the area.
Cleveland Metroparks Police were called to the scene of the downed tree in the 14000 block of Royalton Road in Strongsville.
Police spoke to a resident at the home there, which is bounded on three sides by park district land, and she said her son-in-law owns the property and is responsible for the tree coming down. She told them he first started talking about selling the tree back in the summer, when they put the property up for sale.
According to the report, the suspect, Todd Jones, initially told officers that his sister was the one involved and that he believed the tree had been on his property.
Investigators reached out to the logging company who confirmed that they bought, cut down and removed the tree.
The company owner told investigators that Jones’ sister, Laurel Hoffman, was the one who contacted them about buying the tree and signed a contract stating that they owned the property and had the right to sell it. The company owner bought the tree for $2,000.
Cleveland Metroparks gave an estimated value of over $28,800 for the tree. Documents showed that the tree in question was about seven and a half feet from Jones’ property.
During the investigation, Jones later told officers that he wanted to take responsibility for the incident, be fined and move on.
Jones told investigators that he never lived on the property and only acquired it from his father.
The incident report said Jones is “not going to have this big investigation into all this stuff” because “this is not the crime of the century.”
Hoffman and Jones were indicted on charges of grand theft and falsification in a theft offense. Their arraignments are scheduled for Jan. 20.
The logging company was not held liable in the case.