Crime

Victims of alleged Georgia timber fraud can now get back some of their losses, DA says

Bibb County District Attorney David Cooke on Tuesday said dozens of Georgia victims in an alleged timber-swindling operation are eligible to recoup at least some of their losses from a $1.3-million victims’ compensation fund.

Arrests were made in September 2018 in a case involving 28 alleged victims in 16 counties as part of an investigation led by the Georgia Forestry Commission.

Roughly half of the alleged thefts, some of which involved cutting more timber than victims were paid for, are said to have happened in Middle Georgia, including Bibb, Baldwin, Dodge, Monroe, Lamar and Jasper counties.

Seventeen of the alleged victims were over age 65.

Last year The Telegraph reported that the Pike County-based timber company Cox Land & Timber Inc. was, according to a lawsuit, accused of quoting an elderly man $15,000-$30,000 for the harvest of his timber and then paying him only $6,686.

Another accusation in the civil lawsuit related to the case involved the company allegedly telling a victim, falsely, that his or her timber had “extensive beetle damage, which prevented harvesting the amount of timber as quoted,” the lawsuit said.

Cooke on Tuesday said a compensation fund for the victims would come from a trust created in a bankruptcy case that involved Cox Land & Timber.

“Each claim will be vetted by an independent examiner,” Cooke said, adding that the court-appointed examiner has already begun looking into some victims’ losses.

“Although we can’t guarantee how the court will rule on each claim,” he said, “we will continue to make every effort to ensure each alleged claimant is compensated for the full amount permitted by law.”

Victims were expected to be notified of the compensation fund by mail in the coming days. Cooke said people who are not notified and who believe they have a claim against Cox can call the examiner’s office at 404-369-0616.

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report.

Joe Kovac Jr. covers crime and courts for The Telegraph with an eye for human-interest stories. A Warner Robins native, he joined the paper in 1991 after graduating from the University of Georgia.
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