Former Jackson Lawyer and Former Jackson Lobbyist Sentenced for Conspiracy to Defraud Investors
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Mississippi
Jackson, Miss. – A former Jackson lawyer and a former Jackson lobbyist were sentenced for conspiracy to defraud investors in a timber deed investment scheme.
On October 31, 2023, former lawyer Jon D. Seawright, 51, of Jackson was sentenced to serve twelve months and one day in prison, followed by two years of supervised release. Former lobbyist Ted Brent Alexander, 58, of Jackson was sentenced to serve five years of probation, which includes two years of home confinement with electronic monitoring. Seawright and Alexander were ordered to pay restitution joint and severally in the amount of $977,044.53. On separate dates, Alexander and Seawright entered guilty pleas to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Alexander and Seawright conspired in a scheme to defraud investors by soliciting millions of dollars under false pretenses and by failing to use investor funds as promised. They represented to investors that they were in the business of loaning funds to a “timber broker” to buy timber rights from landowners and then to sell the timber rights to lumber mills at a higher price. Alexander and Seawright promised investors a return of 10% or more over twelve or thirteen months on each unit of invested capital. They led their investors to believe that they were inspecting each tract of land and were vetting each document, deed, and contract in support of their investments, causing investors to believe that their investments were secured by valid assets and that the financial incentives and interests of Alexander and Seawright aligned with those of the investors. In fact, Alexander and Seawright failed to inspect each property related to the timber rights underlying each investment, and they failed to verify each executed lumber mill agreement related to each investment. They made few or no such inquiries, and if they had made such inquiries, they would have discovered that the timber deeds, lumber mill agreements, and related documents had been falsified and were not valid.
Alexander and Seawright also represented to their investors that Alexander and Seawright would only profit from each series of the investment if it performed as promised to the investors. This gave the investors the misleading impression that their interests were fully aligned with those of Alexander and Seawright. In fact, in addition to receiving a predetermined percentage of return on the investors’ funds, Alexander and Seawright also received undisclosed payments of approximately 3% for recruiting investments to the timber investment scheme immediately upon transferring the investment funds to the purported timber broker. They did not disclose to the investors: (a) the fact of these payments, (b) the amount of the payments in relation to the investments made, or (c) the timing of the undisclosed payments to Alexander and Seawright before any repayment was made to the investors.
U.S. Attorney Todd W. Gee and Special Agent in Charge Jermicha Fomby of the Federal Bureau of Investigation made the announcement.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The case was prosecuted by Deputy Criminal Chief Dave Fulcher and former Assistant United States Attorney Andrew Eichner.
Updated November 2, 2023
Securities, Commodities, & Investment Fraud