SKOWHEGAN — A former Hartland tannery employee will spend the next three months in jail after pleading guilty to theft in connection with $350,000 worth of stolen metal press plates used in forming leather pieces for use by the U.S. military.

Jose Cruz, 27, of New Jersey, was charged on eight separate counts of burglary and theft of the plates from the Tasman Leather Group on May 28, May 30 and June 2 at the tannery’s annex building. He was sentenced this week in Somerset County Unified Court to three years in prison with all but 90 days suspended. He also was ordered to serve two years of probation once he is released, according to court documents.

He was sentenced Tuesday after pleading guilty in September.

Cruz and another employee, James T. Chasse, 31, of Lebanon, were spotted by a current employee at the annex with the metal press plates stacked and ready to be hauled away. Another Tasman employee located 35 of the press plates at Newport Metal, a scrap metal recycling company in Newport. The recovered plates are valued at $175,000, according to court documents.

Another 35 press plates, also valued at $175,000, are still missing.

Cruz and Chasse were arrested June 18. Both men had been living in Hartland.

Chasse pleaded guilty earlier and was sentenced to four months in jail.

James Ross, chief deputy at the Somerset County Sheriff’s Department, said in June that the Criminal Investigation Division executed a search warrant obtained by Lt. Carl Gottardi at Chasse’s home on Moore Street in Hartland. Each plate weighs about 500 pounds, Ross said.

Employees of Tasman Leather Group were able to identify the metal plates positively as being the ones stolen from the tannery, Ross said.

Tasman Leather Group, LLC., a subsidiary of Tasman Industries Inc., was established in Hartland in 2011. The company specializes in producing premium-quality side leather products for military boots and footwear.

Hartland residents at a special town meeting in October agreed to form two limited liability companies to set the stage for possible brownfield cleanup grants to deal with contaminated land at the annex and to turn the property over to a town resident who would create as many as 10 jobs in demolishing many of the existing buildings.

The land and buildings were home to the bankrupt Prime Tanning Co. When Tasman took over the tannery, the company bought the equipment but leased the buildings from Prime.

Tasman is no longer using the annex, so it’s considered abandoned property.

Residents also agreed to the future transfer of the annex land from the two Hartland LLCs to resident Calvin Warner, who will establish Cal’s Way LLC to do the cleanup. Warner is a retired developer from Connecticut who moved to Hartland in 2003.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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