5 indicted in Menominee timber theft conspiracy

Tribe calls for prosecution to fullest extent of law

Five men have been indicted by a federal grand jury for an alleged conspiracy to steal timber from tribal forestlands on the Menominee Indian Reservation in a scheme that netted about $400,000 over a six-year period.

The indictment names Melvin T. Caldwell Jr., 43, of Neopit; Arthur P. “Herman” Fish, 49, of Keshena; Chauncey J. Webster Jr., 49, of Neopit; Derrin B. Webster, 30, of Neopit; and Dugan R. Webster, 41, of Shawano.

According to the indictment, the men conspired to cut and remove timber from tribal forestlands on the reservation in order to sell them to saw mills outside the reservation without consent from the tribe.

The defendants logged timber from designated areas on the Menominee Indian Reservation, the indictment states.

The indictment alleges that on at least 100 occasions the defendants and others cut down extra trees beyond those they were authorized to log.

Fish then allegedly transported the extra timber to sawmills outside the boundaries of the reservation, according to the indictment.

Dugan and Derrin Webster then allegedly received payments from the mills for the timber, which the defendants divided amongst themselves.

According to the indictment, the sawmills paid the Websters approximately $400,000 between January 2012 and September 2018 for the timber the defendants and others removed from the reservation without permission.

The forests are managed on behalf of the tribe by Menominee Tribal Enterprises.

In a statement Friday, Tribal Chairman Doug Cox called for the full force of the law to be levied against the defendants.

“The Menominee Tribe takes great pride in the management of our largest tribal trust asset, the Menominee Forest,” Cox said. “The betrayal of trust by native logging contractors and others who participated in the theft of timber from our forests is not something our tribal government will turn a blind eye to.”

Cox said the tribe would not have any further comment beyond, “encouraging the federal justice system to prosecute this crime to the fullest extent of the law.”

Caldwell, Fish, Chauncey Webster, and Derrin Webster are enrolled members of the Menominee Indian Tribe. Dugan Webster is an enrolled member of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin.

The five defendants could face a maximum of five years in prison and $250,000 fine, along with up to three years supervised release following their prison sentence, if convicted.

The case was investigated by the Menominee Tribal Police Department, Menominee Conservation Department, United States Forest Service, and Federal Bureau of Investigation.

In his statement, Cox thanked those agencies and Menominee Tribal Enterprises for their investigative work on the case.