Tommy Morgan, 68, of Natchitoches, and Kevin Wayne Hill, 49, of Coushatta were charged in Rapides, Jackson and Ouachita parishes with defrauding three timber companies of $953,990.21.
“Louisiana has some of the strongest timber-theft laws on the books which aid in the investigations and arrests by our highly skilled LDAF enforcement agents,” Strain said.
The investigation was launched after complaints were filed by Roy O. Martin Timber Co. of Alexandria, West Rock of Hodge, and Graphic Packaging of West Monroe.
Agents said records show Morgan, who was doing business as Diversified Timber Services of Winnfield, already had premium-rate contracts in place with Roy O. Martin, West Rock and Graphic Packaging. Morgan had to deliver timber from high volume tracts of land that were further away from the mills in order to be paid the premium rate.
Morgan was also logging timber from tracts which did not qualify for the premium-contracted rate, agents said. However, Morgan required his loggers and truck drivers to tell the mills the load was coming from qualifying tracts and turn in loads under the wrong landowner’s name and locations. A similar pattern was reportedly also found with Graphic Packaging and West Rock who received pine and hardwood pulpwood.
Morgan was charged with theft by fraud, conspiracy and extortion. Hill, who worked as a timber buyer for Diversified Timber, was charged with theft by fraud and conspiracy.
As part of the alleged scheme, agents said Morgan and Hill ordered loggers both verbally and in writing to turn timber in under the wrong landowner’s names and wrong parishes or lose their equipment which was financed through Diversified Timber.
Agents executed a search warrant on Morgan’s business and found from January 2012 – March 2016, loggers working for Diversified Timber delivered 18,952 loads of timber. Between records furnished by the mills and those obtained through the search warrant, agents found 5,731 loads which were fraudulently turned in under the wrong name and wrong parish which resulted in Diversified Timber being paid about $1,049,000 more than the company was entitled to receive; however, the statute of limitations had already expired on $95,009.79 of the total overpayment.
LDAF agents said both Morgan and Hill confessed to the crimes.
“LDAF enforcement agents take agriculture and forestry-related crimes seriously and they will seek justice when individuals break the law,” Strain said. “I advise anyone who believes they may be victim of timber theft to immediately report a suspected crime.”
To report a timber theft, contact the Office of Forestry at 225-925-4500 to file a complaint.