FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 15, 2011
CANAL WOOD, LLC TO PAY BACK U.S. GOVERNMENT
(Columbia,SC)United States Attorney William N. Nettles states Canal Wood, LLC has agreed to pay the United States government a total of $520,064.50.
The settlement is the culmination of a joint investigation involving investigators, attorneys and auditors from the United States Attorney’s Office in Columbia, the Department of Interior, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the South Carolina Forestry Commission.
The sum resolves allegations that Canal Wood fraudulently failed to include more than 1,000 timber scale tickets in settlement sheets it presented to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service for timber cut on its land.
Each of the 1,000 tickets represents a truck load of timber. The value of the timber tickets fraudulently withheld was $208,064.50.
Shortly after the government’s discovery of Canal Wood’s withholding of the timber tickets, Canal Wood paid the amount of the actual loss to the government of $208,064.50 to the Fish and Wildlife Service.
The investigation involved examining closely an immense amount of records. The South Carolina Forestry Commission’s Law Enforcement division provided personnel and facilities essential at various stages of the investigation.
In 2006, a Canal Wood employee, Markus Gaskins pled guilty to a portion of the timber theft.
Canal Wood has agreed to pay an additional $312,000 to resolve the allegations brought by Gaskin on behalf of the Government in a qui tam action.
Gaskins will receive a reduced share because of his involvement in the scheme.
Canal Wood contracted with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to cut timber on the federally owned Sandhills Wildlife Refuge, near Cheraw, South Carolina.
This settlement resolves allegations by the United States and the relator that Canal Wood submitted to the government false settlement statements in valuation of the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. §§ 3729-3733. The false settlement statements allowed Canal Wood to avoid paying the United States for more than one thousand truck loads of timber taken from federal land.
Mr. Nettles stated, “This is a significant settlement. When taking possession of government property, contractors must insure that the government is properly compensated. A number of attorneys and agents have worked very hard on the investigation and on the negotiations that resulted in this settlement. I commend Assistant U.S. Attorneys Fran Trapp, Jennifer Aldrich and James Leventis for their extraordinary effort in this case. In addition, Darren Brandenburg of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did an excellent job of investigating the case as did Aaron Gilland of Dendro Resource Management.”
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For more information, call Scott Hawkins at (803) 896-8820 or by email.
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.