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Press Release

South Carolina Man Indicted For Defrauding Birmingham Heavy Equipment Company

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Alabama

BIRMINGHAM – A federal grand jury today indicted a South Carolina man for wire fraud in connection with a scheme to sell a piece of heavy machinery he did not possess to a Birmingham company, announced U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance and U.S. Secret Service Acting Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey Anderson.

An indictment filed in U.S. District Court charges THOMAS CHASE CHILES, 46, with one count of wire fraud and seeks forfeiture of $60,000 to the United States as proceeds of illegal activity.

According to the indictment, the fraud was conducted as follows:

Between Sept. 28, 2009, and Oct. 9, 2009, Chiles sent e-mails to Cowin Equipment Company in Birmingham, advertising a Komatsu PC300LC Excavator for sale and providing detailed specifications on the piece of equipment. Chiles did not own the excavator, nor did he have authority to sell it.

Through further e-mails to a Cowin representative, Chiles negotiated a $59,000 price for the excavator, plus $1,000 to deliver it to the heavy equipment company. Chiles sent subsequent e-mails to Cowin representatives to lull them into believing that he would eventually deliver the excavator and delay them from filing a complaint with the authorities. 

On Oct. 9, 2009, Cowin wired $60,000 to Chile’s bank account for the Komatsu excavator, which it never received.

The maximum penalty for wire fraud is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The U.S. Secret Service investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Chinelo Diké-Minor is prosecuting the case.

The public is reminded that an indictment contains only charges. A defendant is presumed innocent and it is the government’s responsibility to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.

Updated March 19, 2015