Macon – Bibb County grand jurors voted Tuesday to indict five defendants in a multi-county timber fraud case that involves a number of elderly victims.
John Barnhardt Cox, 50, of Williamson; Brenda Owings Jones, 64, of Zebulon; Jonathon Ashley May, 45, of Williamson; Jack David Uselton, 49, of McDonough; and James Lafayette Weldon, 47, of Evans; each are charged with four counts of violating Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 16 counts of exploitation of an elder person, five counts of theft by deception and five counts of misrepresenting the origin or ownership of timber or agricultural commodities.
According to the indictment filed in Bibb County Superior Court:
Between May 2016 and July 2018, the defendants exploited landowners, many of whom were over age 65, for monetary gain through operations of the Pike County-based Cox Land & Timber Inc. They also defrauded timber mills.
The defendants would enter into timber sales contracts, pressuring elderly landowners into signing contracts agreeing to prices vastly under fair market value for timber harvesting and timber sale. In some instances, prices were left blank when the contract was signed.
The defendants ensured timber was taken to different mills throughout middle Georgia, including Graphic Packaging in Macon. At the mills the timber haulers would, at the instruction of the defendants, cause the mill to overpay for timber by misrepresenting the origin of the timber to inflate the amount paid.
Timber haulers would then receive scale tickets that defendant Jones would enter into Cox Land & Timber’s computer-based accounting system to generate an owner settlement sheet. But when entering information from the tickets into the accounting system, the number of loads and/or the quality of timber was altered to underpay landowners. By giving landowners settlement sheets with falsified information, the defendants prevented elderly landowners from discovering the true value of timber harvested from their property.
The indictment names 16 elderly victims ranging in age from 66 to 96.
Each defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until he/she is proven guilty in a court of law.
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Contact: Amy Leigh Womack