Port Angeles man pleads guilty in tree poaching case

PORT ANGELES — Richard A. Welches, one of three co-defendants charged with poaching an old growth maple tree on federal land near the Elwha River in 2013, has pleaded guilty to depredation of government property.

Welches, 24, entered the plea Thursday in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in Tacoma, U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Emily Langlie said.

He is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 21.

Federal investigators said Welches, Matthew A. Hutto, 50, and Michael D. Welches, 63, felled and sectioned off a big leaf maple tree near the former Lake Aldwell boat launch in the Elwha River restoration area in November 2013.

Olympic National Park rangers found the trio cutting and loading the tree after a neighbor reported hearing chainsaws and seeing people in the woods wearing headlamps in the middle of the night, federal court papers said.

Investigators said the men, all from Port Angeles, had sold some of the wood to a Quilcene music wood supplier.

The value of the timber sold as music wood was estimated to be $8,766.

All three men were indicted on one count of depredation of government property.

Michael Welches was sentenced Jan. 19 to 30 days in federal prison.

Hutto was sentenced Feb. 16 to 60 days in prison and two years probation.

Both men were ordered to pay $17,533 in restitution.

In exchange for Richard Welches’ guilty plea, federal prosecutors are recommending no more than 30 days in prison.

The court is not bound by the sentencing recommendation.

Richard Welches also agreed to pay $962 in restitution to the National Park Service, Langlie said.

________

Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at rollikainen@peninsula dailynews.com.

More in Crime

Port Hadlock man accused of breaking into cat shelter, hijacking delivery truck

‘Crime spree’ reported by Clallam County Sheriff

Makah man indicted in fatal December crash

Arraignment set for March 4

Woman charged with stealing transit bus pleads not guilty

Status hearing in April, three-day trial May 13

Evaluations scheduled for juvenile

Boy charged in playground fire due in court Feb. 22

April trial set for accused murderer

A Sequim woman accused of killing the daughter of… Continue reading

Fugitive from Texas arrested in downtown Port Angeles

A 46-year-old man was arrested in downtown Port Angeles… Continue reading

Port Angeles man to be arraigned on child sex charges

A Port Angeles man will be arraigned Feb. 2… Continue reading

Jordan T. Sorensen.
Man held in jail after death of newborn

Arraignment hearing scheduled for Feb. 2