Macon – On Wednesday, Macon Judicial Circuit District Attorney David Cooke announced his office’s filling of a civil racketeering lawsuit against Pike County-based Cox Land and Timber Inc. and six co-conspirators.
The case involves allegations of illegal conduct in at least 16 counties — Bibb, Baldwin, Dodge, Fayette, Greene, Hancock, Henry, Jasper, Lamar, Meriwether, Monroe, Newton, Pike, Spaulding, Talbot and Taliaferro.
As stated in the complaint filed Tuesday in Bibb County Superior Court, the case involves the company and its agents harvesting timber from lots owned by 28 landowners.
An investigation by the Georgia Forestry Commission has shown that the defendants allegedly misrepresented both the type and amount of timber harvested so they could pay landowners a reduced price for the timber. At least 17 of the landowners were elderly.
For example, an elderly man was quoted between $15,000 and $30,000 for his timber. After the harvest, the man only received $6,686.82. An investigation found the defendants harvested approximately 655 tons more timber than they’d declared on a settlement sheet provided to the man.
In another instance, the defendants quoted an elderly woman between $50,000 and $80,000 for her timber, but she only received $37,984. The defendants fraudulently misrepresented that her property had extensive beetle damage that prevented them from harvesting the amount of timber quoted. In reality, the defendants harvested more than 289 tons more than was declared on the settlement sheet they gave to the woman.
The defendants also are alleged to have defrauded Graphic Packaging International, a Macon sawmill, by misrepresenting the ownership or origin of timber so they’d get a larger payment from the mill.
Agents with the Georgia Forestry Commission served a search warrant yesterday at Cox Land & Timber’s office in Pike County and seized the business along with its assets. Both the business and the assets will be held in a receivership during the pendency of the lawsuit.
John Barnhart Cox, 49, of Williamson, was charged with theft by deception Tuesday. Jack David Uselton Jr., 49, of McDonough, was charged with misrepresenting the origin or ownership of timber. This is an ongoing investigation and additional arrests are possible.
Each defendant in the lawsuit and the associated criminal cases is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
For more news from the District Attorney’s Office, follow on Twitter @DA_DavidCooke, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/DADavidCooke and on Instagram at da_davidcooke.
Contact: Amy Leigh Womack