ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) – Two men have been arrested while one man remains at large for alleged illegal removal of walnut trees from federally protected land in the New River Valley.

According to the Department of Justice, William Riley Stump, 52, of Narrows, and Derrick Anthony Thompson, 48, of Princeton, West Virginia, were arraigned this week in U.S. District Court in Roanoke.

Court documents indicate that Stump, Thompson, and another co-defendant who has also been indicted, conspired to cut down the trees in the Bluestone Project in Giles County and transport them to Lindside, West Virginia in an effort to sell them.

Officials say the project involves the Army Corps of Engineers Flood Damage Reduction program which is designed to help prevent flooding along the New and Bluestone Rivers. They say the project encompasses 21,000 acres of land — known to be a fertile habitat for the growth of certain types of trees and plants, including the “highly valuable black walnut trees,” which are among the largest and longest-living hardwood trees in the country.

“The Department of Justice will vigorously prosecute those who steal natural resources from federal lands for their personal enrichment,” United States Attorney Christopher R. Kavanaugh said. “Federal protected lands not only serve as areas of conservation and flood management but also provide intrinsic beauty we all enjoy, particularly here in the Western District of Virginia.”

Stump faces the following charges:

  • One count of conspiracy to commit an offense to defraud the United States
  • Five counts of violating the Lacey Act
  • Five counts of theft of government property
  • Five counts of removal of timber from lands of the United States
  • Seven counts of the illegal cutting of trees on lands of the United States

Thompson faces the following charges

  • One count of conspiracy to commit an offense to defraud the United States
  • One count of violating the Lacey Act
  • One count of theft of government property
  • One count of removal of timber from lands of the United States
  • Three counts of illegal cutting of trees on lands of the United States