ATLANTA – April and James Thompson have each been sentenced for mail fraud after stealing over $4 million from Forest Investment Associates (“FIA”), an Atlanta-based company that provides timberland investment advisory and management services for institutional timberland investors.
“The defendants were able to engage in this fraud for so long only because the victim trusted them,” said U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine. “We will aggressively prosecute those who exploit their insider knowledge and the trust of others to steal.”
“The negative impact of white-collar fraud is far-reaching, and the FBI constantly works to hold fraudsters accountable and protect businesses from further damages,” said Philip Wislar, Acting Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “The Thompsons chose self-interest and greed rather than to make an honest living, and for that they will spend significant time in prison.”
According to U.S. Attorney Erskine, the charges, and other information presented in court: April Thompson worked in Texas for Kingwood Forestry Services (“Kingwood”), which is a natural resource consulting firm that provides a variety of forestry services to landowners. FIA contracted with Kingwood to retain contractors to provide field services on behalf of FIA’s clients, such as clearing land, road grading, or other services, subject to an agreed upon annual budget. After the work was completed, Kingwood would send invoices to FIA for the work performed by the contractors. FIA, in turn, paid the invoices directly to the contractors. At Kingwood, April Thompson was responsible for managing the submission of invoices to and requesting payment from FIA.
Between approximately May 2011 and April 2019, April Thompson submitted over 400 fraudulent invoices totaling more than $4 million to FIA for work that her husband, James Thompson, had allegedly performed at FIA timber properties. Not one of these invoices was true. James Thompson never worked as contractor for FIA or Kingwood and had never performed work on any FIA timber property. After April Thompson submitted the invoices, FIA mailed checks to the Thompsons in Texas, which they deposited into bank accounts they jointly controlled. The Thompsons used the stolen money for their own personal benefit, including to operate James Thompson’s trucking businesses, support his race car hobby, purchase silver and gold coins, install a pool at their home, and even treat themselves and friends to a Hawaiian vacation.
In addition to the criminal charges against the Thompsons, FIA had separately filed a civil suit against them in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas (“Texas court”). As part of the civil litigation, the Texas court appointed a Receiver to manage and control the Thompsons’ finances, which included granting him full access and control over their bank accounts, as well as the authority to take custody, control, and possession of their property, and authority to determine their reasonable and necessary living expenses. The Texas court also required that the Thompsons respond promptly and truthfully to all requests for information and documents from the Receiver.
The Texas court twice found the Thompsons in contempt for violating its orders, including after they had both pleaded guilty in Georgia. The Texas court found that that they had willfully disregarded its orders related to the preservation of assets by withholding, concealing, or otherwise failing to provide truthful information to the Receiver. The Thompsons likewise failed to make complete financial disclosures to the U.S. Probation Office in advance of their sentencings, including hiding the existence of a bank account in which they were receiving their salaries and failing to account for how thousands of dollars of cash had been spent in the months leading up to their sentencings.
April Thompson, 44, and James Thompson, 49, both of Maud, Texas, were each sentenced by U.S. District Judge Eleanor L. Ross to six years and eight months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $5,143,209. They were originally charged by a federal grand jury in September 2019 with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and multiple counts of mail fraud. On December 1, 2021, April Thompson pleaded guilty to eleven counts of mail fraud. James Thompson pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud on January 13, 2022.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.