Additional warrants have been issued for the owner of a Middle Georgia timber company and other defendants in an alleged scheme that victimized mostly elderly landowners.
Georgia Forestry Commission investigators started serving the additional warrants Tuesday on defendants linked to Cox Land and Timber Inc., which is based in Pike County.
In September, company owner John Barnhart Cox, 49, of Williamson, was charged with theft by deception, and Jack David Uselton Jr., 49, of McDonough, was charged with misrepresenting the origin or ownership of timber.
The new warrants charge Cox, Uselton and James Lafayette Weldon, 46, of Evans; Jonathan Ashley May, 44, of Williamson; and Brenda Owings Jones, 63, of Zebulon, with violating Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, according to a news release from the District Attorney’s Office for the Macon Judicial Circuit.
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Cox, Uselton, Weldon, May and Jones are defendants in a civil racketeering lawsuit filed Sept. 25 against Cox Land and Timber in Bibb County Superior Court. The lawsuit also named Kelly Zimmerman of Kennesaw.
The lawsuit alleges that the company intentionally misrepresented the value of timber harvested and harvested more timber than represented to the victims. Other allegations against the company include exploitation of the elderly and timber mill theft.
At least 17 of the 28 landowners were elderly. The alleged crimes occurred in Bibb, Baldwin, Dodge, Fayette, Greene, Hancock, Henry, Jasper, Lamar, Meriwether, Monroe, Newton, Pike, Spalding, Talbot and Taliaferro counties.
The defendants also allegedly defrauded Graphic Packaging International, a Macon sawmill, by misrepresenting the ownership or origin of timber.
Additionally, 27 more complaints have been received by the Georgia Forestry Commission since the initial arrests and filing of the lawsuit, according to the release.
Cox Land and Timber’s business and assets are being held in a receivership pending the outcome of the lawsuit.
Brian Jarrard, a Macon attorney representing Cox, previously said he thinks it is improper for the district attorney’s office “to seize a business’s assets before any testing of their allegations in front of a jury. ... We intent to vigorously defend Mr. Cox and his business.”