FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 3, 2011
TIMBER FRAUD SUSPECT APPREHENDED IN GA, CHARGED IN SC
(Columbia, SC)- Investigators with the South Carolina Forestry Commission have charged a timber harvester with failing to pay a landowner for the wood removed from his property. The case involved law enforcement personnel in two states, South Carolina and Georgia. The Commission expects the number of victims in this case to rise and is asking that anyone who has done business with James Lafayette Weldon, Jr. to come forward.
Authorities say Weldon, of Madison, Georgia, owes an Abbeville Co., SC landowner approximately $27,000.00 for wood he removed from the victim’s property between March and May of 2011. South Carolina law dictates that harvesters have 45 days to pay landowners for their share of the revenue generated by their timber. Failure to pay the victim in this case netted Weldon felony charges due to the large sum owed.
The Commission also is charging Mr. Weldon with failing to provide a wood load scale ticket, a misdemeanor.
But complaints have been piling up against him in both states. That’s why, on Thursday, Morgan Co., GA Sheriff Robert Markley recognized Weldon at a local restaurant. Despite trying to hide in the cab of a truck, he was promptly detained and SCFC investigators were called to press criminal charges. South Carolina’s timber theft/fraud laws are much stricter and are aggressively enforced.
After waiving extradition, SC Forestry Commission investigators brought Weldon back across the state line and took him to the Abbeville County Detention Center. Weldon spent one night in jail and bonded out Friday morning for $1,470.00. He is awaiting his day in court.
It’s believed Weldon owes thousands of dollars to several landowners in both states. Anyone who has done business with Weldon, is asked to call the South Carolina Forestry Commission’s law enforcement chief, David West, at (803) 896-8838.
Your timber is valuable. Forest-related industry has a $17.4 billion annual impact on the South Carolina economy. While most timber harvesters are reputable, landowners should never take unsolicited offers for their wood. Forestry Commission staff and private consultants are available to help SC’s landowners get the most for their timber before the cutting begins. Before selling, call the Commission office near you or visit www.trees.sc.gov for tips on getting the most from your investment.
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News editors, for more information contact Scott Hawkins at (803) 896-8820.
This news release reports an arrest. Under the law, all suspects are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
The SC Forestry Commission’s mission is to protect and develop South Carolina’s forest resource
For every $1.00 invested by SC in the Commission, the industry produces more than $1,800.00 of economic impact.