Huntington man gets 5 years probation for $5K timber fraud

Johnathan Williams (Source: Angelina County Jail)
Johnathan Williams (Source: Angelina County Jail)

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - A 46-year-old Huntington man accepted a plea bargain deal for five years deferred adjudication for harvesting an Angelina County man's timber and not paying him the $5,815.38 he was due.

Johnathan David Williams appeared in Judge Paul White's 159 Judicial District Court Monday.

Deferred adjudication basically means that Williams will be on probation for five years. If he stays out of trouble during that period, the state-jail felony fraud by timber purchaser charge will be dropped from his criminal record.

Angelina County District Attorney Art Bauereiss stated that Williams received deferred adjudication because he paid his restitution in advance.

Williams was arrested on Jan. 5 and charged with fraud by timber purchaser. After he posted a $5,000 bail, he was released from the Angelina County Jail on Jan. 5.

The arrest affidavit obtained from the Pct. 1 Justice of the Peace office stated that the victim and Williams, who was representing DK Group Enterprise, (not to be confused with David Kelley Contractors also in Huntington) entered into a written contract for the harvest of his timber.

"[The] victim provided a copy of the contract to me and a detail of the loads of logs that had been recorded by the defendant and given to the victim," Selman stated in the affidavit. "The timber was priced at a pre-determined rate per ton of timber harvested. [The victim] stated he has not been paid by the defendant after numerous demands."

The victim provided documentation that showed the timber harvest occurred between Aug. 22 and Sept. 15, 2012 on a 133-acre tract in Angelina County owned by the victim. The affidavit stated the victim received load tickets from the defendant for 22 loads of timber that were delivered to various East Texas mills.

According to the affidavit, proceeds from the timber sales are considered trust money, which made Williams a trustee, according to the Texas Natural Resources Code.

"Based on the tonnage sold at the rates agreed upon between the buyer and seller, victim's documents show amount due was $5,815.38 and after the passage of more than 45 days remains unpaid," the affidavit stated.

In the affidavit, Selman said he went to Williams' residence in Huntington, and the man said he would pay the victim by the end of the week. However, he didn't do so, and Selman sent Williams a written notice telling him that a criminal investigation was pending.

Landowner Eric Rich was unavailable for an on camera interview but did give East Texas News a statement for a previous story.

"I never thought this could happen to me. I trusted Mr. Williams. I can't believe he did this," Rich said.

He also offered advice to others.

"I would encourage people to first do research on who you hire. I would talk to friends and neighbors first. I would also talk to the Texas Forest Service," said Rich.

Selman says this type of lumber crime is not the most common, but he adds crimes like this do catch the attention of law enforcement agencies.

"With East Texas having a large amount of timber, these kinds of offenses do happen time to time and local law enforcement. The U.S. Forest Service, the Texas Forest Service is always on the lookout for incidents that occur where timber theft is involved." 

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