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Former Malheur Refuge Occupier Pleads Guilty To Federal Theft Charge

<p>A post on which cameras were stationed at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.</p>

Conrad Wilson

A post on which cameras were stationed at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

A former occupier of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge pleaded guilty to federal charges Thursday.

Scott Willingham, 49, admitted in court to stealing government property. Investigators said Willingham removed surveillance cameras with occupation spokesman LaVoy Finicum in January.

Willingham hasn’t been charged in the larger case that includes more than two dozen defendants.

But, he’s the first person to plead guilty to crimes connected with the occupation.

He’s expected to face six months in prison and two years of supervision after his release. He's also agreed to undergo a mental health evaluation and spend up to 120 days at a treatment center, according to the plea agreement.

If Willingham violates the conditions of his supervised release, he could face up to an additional two years in prison.

He’ll also have to pay restitution for the cost of the cameras, which are valued at more than $1,000.

A sentencing date for Willingham has not been set.

Copyright 2016 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Kimberley Freda