Nine indicted for selling non-existent timber
November 3, 2009
Nine Georgia men were indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly being part of a $5 million scheme to sell phantom deliveries of timber to a major timber company, reported by the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Aaron Freeman, a former scale house operator at the Temple Inland paper mill between June 2003 and June 2006, and eight other Georgia men allegedly were part of a scheme that caused Freeman’s employer, Temple Inland Inc., to pay more than $4.8 million for timber that did not exist. He allegedly learned how to manipulate the scale house computer system to produce two weight readings when a single truck passed through the paper mill’s scale -- a reading for the weight of the timber actually delivered, and a second reading for a phantom load. Freeman then recruited drivers to take credit for the phantom loads, and the drivers shared their payments with Freeman. The defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The offense of wire fraud conspiracy is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 per count. Freeman, and three of the men are also charged with several counts of aiding and abetting each other to commit wire fraud, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 per count. The indictment charges that between September 2004 and June 2006, as the result of Freeman’s manipulation, the corporation paid about $3.35 million for phantom deliveries.