Two Colorado men have been ordered to pay $16,000 in restitution to the Wyoming Department of Transportation after the men stole lumber from snow-fences in Albany County and sold them to a Fort Collins business in 2017.
On Monday, one of the men, Tres Steinhoff, was sentenced to five years supervised probation in lieu of a suspended three- to five-year prison sentence. Steinhoff was convicted for conspiracy to commit theft.
“I’m ashamed,” Steinhoff said. “I don’t have anything that justifies this. I’d say that it’s a mistake, but it’s more than that.”
Brian Quinn, who represented co-conspirator Billy Cobb in the case, said in October that Steinhoff was “the ring leader of this operation.”
Billy Cobb was the first of the group to turn himself in. Like Steinhoff, Billy Cobb was sentenced to five years supervised probation.
“I don’t have concerns about your ability to be successful,” Albany County District Court judge Tori Kricken told Cobb at his October sentencing.
Less than two months later, Kricken revoked Billy Cobb’s probation and he was arrested on a warrant after he continuously failed to meet with his probation agent. He remains on probation.
The lumber was taken from snow fences off U.S. Highway 287 near Tie Siding. Steinhoff said he’s particularly remorseful over the fact that the theft could have made the treacherous stretch of road even more dangerous.
Kricken thanked Steinhoff for taking responsibility for the crime.
“While it’s not a violent crime, I appreciate the fact that you acknowledge there could have been physical consequences for someone,” she told him.
Randy Hiller, attorney for Steinhoff, argued that WYDOT had inflated its restitution request of $16,000.
Cliff Spoonemore, maintenance engineer for WYDOT, acknowledged in court Monday it’s possible some of the damage to the snow fences affected could have resulted from usual wear-and-tear and predated the thefts.
For example, repairs to the snow fences included repair to some of the fences’s back braces — the vertical beams supporting the horizontal face-boards.
While damaged back braces could be the result of normal wear and tear, back braces that have been striped bare of their face boards are also “more likely to sway and be damaged in Wyoming’s winds,” Spoonemore said.
Some of the $16,000 awarded to WYDOT, Spoonemore said, includes charges for employee benefits and WYDOT’s standard 11 percent overhead rate to “keep the lights on.”
Hiller said the defendants ultimately garnered about $5,000 and said restitution of $5,000-$10,000 would have been more appropriate.
The Albany County Sheriff’s Office was notified in June 2017 that a WYDOT snow fence was stolen. A witness told police they saw a red Nissan SUV drive toward the fence.
WYDOT later said the value of the single fence was $2,605.
The defendants inadvertently left their license plate next to the highway’s right-of-way fence that they cut to access the snow fence.
In July 2017, a police officer in Loveland, Colorado, pulled over a red Nissan Pathfinder that was “pulling a trailer loaded with lumber consistent with snow fence,” according to a police affidavit.
Steinhoff, who was driving the vehicle at the time, “gave several different explanations as to where the lumber on the trailer had come from.”
A passenger, Tabatha Cobb, later told police she, Steinhoff and Billy Cobb drove to Wyoming and spent about six hours at the location prying boards off the snow fence, working in the dark with headlamps.
Tabatha Cobb said Steinhoff and Billy Cobb made a least three trips to the area, then sold boards to Blue Ridge Log Works in Fort Collins.
After pleading guilty in the case in 2018, Tabatha Cobb jumped bail and a $50,000 cash warrant has been issued for her arrest.