Couple accused of stealing $4 million through timberland company

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A lawsuit filed last week in Texarkana federal court accuses a local couple of stealing more than $4 million through a scheme involving the wife’s employment at a timberland management company.

Forest Investment Associates filed suit May 14 against April Thompson and James Thompson in the Texarkana Division of the Eastern District of Texas. The complaint accuses the couple of pocketing more than $4 million in a scheme involving April Thompson’s former employer, Kingwood Forestry Services.

Kingwood has offices in Texarkana, Texas and in Monticello and Arkadelphia, Ark. Kingwood is a consultant of FIA, a company which is “in the business of providing timberland investment advisory and management services to institutional timberland investors in a variety of locations.”

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FIA’s consultants provide “technical, administrative and field management services,” to FIA’s clients. The consultants retain contractors to perform work in the field.

“The contractor submits its invoices for services rendered to the consultant, who then enters the invoices for payment through FIA’s electronic invoice processing system. The invoices are then paid by FIA to the contractors from the applicable client’s funds held in bank accounts controlled by FIA,” the complaint states.

April Thompson worked for Kingwood in an administrative position and was able to use her position to submit phony invoices to FIA claiming that her husband, James Thompson, had performed work on properties owned by FIA clients, the complaint alleges.

April Thompson allegedly shielded her and her husband’s alleged scheme from detection by making sure the amounts billed to FIA never surpassed the amounts budgeted annually for a particular client.

“Plaintiff reasonably relied upon Defendants’ misrepresentations and caused the fraudulent invoices to be processed for payment through FIA’s electronic invoice processing system. Plaintiff’s clients in fact paid over $4 million to Defendants in reliance upon their fraudulent representations, and Plaintiff has agreed to indemnify these clients for their losses suffered as a result of this scheme,” the complaint states.

FIA’s complaint states that it has notified the clients affected by the Thompson’s alleged fraud and will make them “whole.”

FIA is asking for an injunction and temporary restraining order meant to prevent the Thompsons from hiding money or other assets. The complaint asks that the Thompsons deposit any funds which resulted from the alleged fraud into the court’s registry for safekeeping while the suit is pending. The complaint seeks an order that would prevent the sale or transfer of assets by the Thompsons and the appointment of a receiver to oversee their accounts and assets.

A hearing to address the requests for an injunction and appointment of a receiver is set for Thursday before U.S. District Judge Robert Schroeder III in Texarkana.

The complaint accuses the Thompsons of committing a first-degree felony under Texas law. The suit seeks actual damages for the more than $4 million allegedly stolen, exemplary damages, court costs and attorney fees.

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