Man never did the work — but Georgia company paid him $4M anyway in scam, feds say

Chris Carlson/AP

For eight years, a Texas couple scammed a Georgia company into paying over $4 million for work that was never done, prosecutors said.

Now, they’re going to jail.

The scheme began in 2011, when April and James Thompson, both from Maud, a city about 160 miles east of Dallas, started submitting fraudulent invoices that claimed James had provided services to a Georgia company, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia.

The Atlanta-based company, Forest Investment Associates (FIA), provides investment advice and management services for timberland investors, according to court documents obtained by McClatchy News.

FIA used Kingwood Forest Services, a company April Thompson worked for, to provide services to timber properties through outside contractors. April Thompson managed the invoices submitted to FIA to pay the contractors, court documents show.

The scam

April Thompson used her position at Kingwood to submit fraudulent invoices that falsely claimed her husband, James, was one of the contractors that worked on the timber properties, authorities said.

James Thompson’s defense attorney told McClatchy News on April 19 that “he has apologized to the victim and to his friends and family.”

His wife’s defense attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment from McClatchy News on April 19.

“This scheme caused FIA to pay James Thompson over $4 million for services that were never rendered,” prosecutors said.

Between 2011 and 2019, the Georgia company issued 236 checks to James Thompson — totaling $4,097,246.95, court documents show.

Prosecutors said the scheme grew bigger over the years. When the couple started in 2011, they submitted $75,170 in invoices. But in 2018, the pair submitted over $1 million worth of fraudulent invoices, court documents show.

By using her knowledge as an employee, April Thompson was able to ensure that the invoices always fell within the budget of the company — never raising any red flags for eight years, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said the couple was only caught because of one mistake April Thompson made in one invoice.

The company

FIA filed a civil lawsuit against the couple on May 14, 2019.

The company had to repay $4,097,247 to its clients as well as $1,044,467 in interests due to the fraudulent payments to the Thompsons, court documents show.

After the suit was filed, the court appointed a “receiver” to monitor and control the couples’ accounts, court documents show.

During that time, prosecutors said the couple violated court orders and didn’t disclose the true extent of their finances by hiding a bank account where they received money.

$4 million are gone

The $4 million that they defrauded over the years is apparently gone, court documents show.

Prosecutors said the couple spent “more money than most could ever even dream of” on a ”life of luxury” with vacations, pool and hot tub for their house, restaurants, jewelry, as well as other “extravagant purchases.”

The couple was sentenced to six years and eight months in prison with three years of supervised release, according to the April 19 release. They will also have to pay $5,143,209 in restitution.

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