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Tuesday, August 16, 1994 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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The Charge: Piracy Of Logs

Using state permits prosecutors say he obtained falsely, a Kirkland man has been charged with stealing 1,000-year-old logs from the bottom of Lake Washington and selling them to sawmills.

John Tortorelli, 49, who operates Western Wood Lumber Co., faces 22 charges filed yesterday by the King County prosecutor's office.

Even though many of the trees were killed in prehistoric landslides 1,000 to 3,000 years ago, they are still useable as sources of lumber because of the preservation provided by the very low oxygen content in water on the lake bottom, court documents said.

The trees are owned by the state Department of Natural Resources. Court papers say Tortorelli provided false information to get a DNR log-patrol permit that is needed to sell salvaged logs.

The court papers also say he wrongly used various permits from a log-salvage company he bought into and at one time mixed the logs brought from the lake bottom with other salvaged logs.

The total value of the stolen logs was estimated at $165,000. They were taken from an underwater forest off Renton, the south end of Mercer Island, Webster Point and St. Edwards State Park.

Tortorelli's operation was discovered as investigators probed a break in a sewer line across the south end of the lake where his crew was operating a crane and barge.

Copyright (c) 1994 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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