4 sentenced for theft of pine straw at wildlife refuge

Columbia, SC - COLUMBIA, SC (WMBF) - Four people have been sentenced in federal court Wednesday for stealing pine straw from a wildlife refuge in Chesterfield County.

U.S. Attorney Kevin McDonald says Curtis Funderburk, 51, Willie Harris, 49, Alonzo Blakeney, 47, and Ray Miller, 51, were all charged and sentenced for the crime committed at the Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge.

Officials say after noticing large amounts of pine straw that had been removed from a section of the refuge, U.S. Fish and Wildlife agents set up surveillance in August 2009 and arrested Miller, Funderburk and Harris when the men returned to the refuge to steal more straw. Blakeney, who was not present during the arrests, was later charged for earlier thefts of pine straw.

Authorities estimate the stolen pine straw, which is considered government property due to its location at the Sandhills Refuge, amounted to $5,000.

Harris was sentenced to five months in federal prison, while Funderburk was sentenced to 30 days imprisonment.  Miller was sentenced to three years probation and Blakeney was sentenced to 18 months probation.

All four men were ordered to pay restitution.  

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