- Associated Press - Sunday, January 15, 2017

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - A Grand Rapids man has pleaded guilty to cutting thousands of tree tops from black spruce in the Chippewa National Forest.

Seventy-year-old Joseph Edminster pleaded guilty Friday in U.S. District Court to one count of theft of government property.

Prosecutors say he admitted to cutting more than 2,700 tree tops from the forest from October 2008 to October 2014. He then admitted to selling the tree tops to wholesalers for use as Christmas decorations. The wholesalers then sold them to retailers in Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois.

It’s estimated Edminster stole more than $24,000 worth of spruce tops from federal land since 2008.

Black spruce is a North American pine species that’s widespread across Canada and the northern U.S. It’s illegal to cut timber on national forest land unless specifically authorized.

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