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A timber investment company suing a Maud, Texas, couple for millions in alleged fraud are accusing the defendants of violating a federal judge's order concerning the preservation of assets.

Lawyers for Forest Investment Associates claim James and April Thompson are in violation of an order preventing them from liquidating assets and emptying bank accounts in a civil case alleging fraud in the Texarkana Division of the Eastern District of Texas.

FIA filed suit in May alleging the couple conspired to defraud FIA's client's through an FIA consultant, Kingwood Forestry Services, for the past eight years. Kingwood Forestry Services maintains offices in Texarkana, Texas; Monticello, Ark., and Arkadelphia, Ark., according to the company's website. According to FIA's complaint, April Johnson worked in an administrative capacity for Kingwood and allegedly conspired with her husband to defraud FIA by submitting invoices that falsely claimed James Thompson performed forestry work as a contractor for Kingwood.

Early in the case, Texarkana lawyer Geoffery Culbertson—who represents FIA—and Texarkana lawyer Darren Anderson—who represents the Thompsons—entered into an agreement to exchange discovery, or evidence, and that the Thompsons would not sell assets such as cars, trucks, jewelry or real estate and would not drain bank accounts other than for personal living and business expenses.

In June, the plaintiff filed an amended complaint adding as defendants the Thompsons' businesses: James Thompson Trucking LLC, James Thompson Transport LLC and James Thompson doing business as James Thompson Racing. According to the complaint, some of the more than $4 million the Thompsons allegedly stole was funnelled into the businesses and used to buy equipment, such as trucks and trailers and that other funds were used to construct a new home, swimming pool and hot tub, pay thousands in credit card debt and finance a trip to Hawaii which they took after the alleged fraud was discovered.

"Bank records obtained in initial discovery demonstrate how the individual defendants financed their lavish lifestyle and used the money they stole to establish the corporate defendants' businesses," the amended complaint states."

Anderson filed a response Thursday to the amended complaint denying any wrongdoing on the Thompsons' behalves.

Culbertson filed a motion July 12 seeking to add the corporate defendants to the restraining order and to convert the restraining order to a preliminary injunction. The motion states that the Thompsons sold a piece of equipment June 5 for $12,600 and that an $8,600 cash withdrawal was made the same day from the account into which the funds from the equipment sale were deposited.

In a July 3 email to an FIA lawyer attached to the motion, Anderson states that the account into which the funds were deposited is a business account and therefore outside the scope of the temporary restraining order.

FIA's motion states that the Thompsons use their James Thomas Trucking account like a personal one.

"The account reflects that a myriad of personal expenses are paid from this account, such as day care payments, gymnastic lessons for the Individual defendants' child, and dining at a variety of restaurants, including Olive Garden, Cracker Barrel and Amigo Juan's, as well as thousands of dollars spent on 'Groupon Getaways,'" the motion states. "The limited reports that have been submitted demonstrate that the Individual Defendants are not restricting their expenditures to 'personal and reasonable daily living expenses' and instead are spending thousands of dollars on unspecified 'credit card expenses' along with other dubious expenditures, including rent and living expenses for their 20-year-old daughter who resides in a separate apartment, together with payments on a whole life policy owned by the Individual defendants."

The amended complaint alleges the Thompsons made $426,600 in purchases from Tri-State Pawn, made at least $173,000 in vehicle purchases, transferred $638,200 from personal accounts to James Thompson Trucking and spent $11,891 on tee shirts for James Thompson Racing since the alleged fraud began.

Also noted in the motion and in the amended complaint are the criminal histories of the Thompsons. April Thompson was serving a term of felony deferred adjudication probation for theft at the time the alleged fraud began in 2011. April Thompson was indicted by a Bowie County grand jury in May 2008 for stealing money orders from Westridge Apartments in Texarkana, Texas. Because she received deferred adjudication, April Thompson is not required to identify herself as a convicted felon.

James Thompson served a term of felony deferred adjudication probation beginning in 2000 for forgery. He received a term of misdemeanor probation for theft in 2008, according to court judgments attached to the motion.

FIA is asking the court for a temporary restraining order to prevent the Thompsons from liquidating assets or moving money. The plaintiff is asking the court to appoint a receiver to manage the Thompsons' personal and business accounts so that funds are not "squandered" or placed out of FIA's reach should the plaintiff prevail in the suit and acquire a judgment against the defendants.

A hearing on the request is set for July 24 before U.S. District Judge Robert Schroeder III in Texarkana's downtown federal building.

llarowe@texarkanagazette.com

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