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Mississippi lobbyist pleads guilty in timber sales fraud

A Mississippi lobbyist has pleaded guilty to a federal charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He has been accused of participating in a fake timber investment scheme.

A longtime Mississippi lobbyist has pleaded guilty to a federal charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for participating in a fake timber investment scheme that caused investors to lose tens of millions of dollars.

The U.S. attorney's office said Thursday that Brent Alexander, 57, of Jackson, entered the plea the previous day before U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves in Jackson.

Federal prosecutors announced in May 2021 that Alexander and attorney Jon Darrell Seawright of Jackson had been indicted on multiple charges in an investment scheme that "affected hundreds of victims across multiple states over a number of years."

Each man ended up pleading guilty to a single charge of conspiracy. Seawright pleaded guilty in July 2022 and had not yet been sentenced.

Alexander’s sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 21. He faces up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine. Federal law also requires him to pay restitution.

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"Brent is happy to have reached an agreement with the government in this matter," Alexander’s attorney, Matt Eichelberger, said in a statement. "He takes full responsibility for his actions. He expresses his sincere regret for the harm he has caused."

A Mississippi businessman, Arthur Lamar Adams, received nearly 20-year federal prison sentence in May 2018 after pleading guilty to running the timber scheme in which investors lost $85 million.

A news release from the U.S. attorney’s office Thursday said Alexander admitted that between 2011 and 2018, he took part in the scheme to defraud investors by soliciting millions of dollars under false pretenses and failing to use the money as promised.

Alexander and his co-conspirator, Seawright, said they were loaning money to a "timber broker" to buy timber rights from landowners and then to sell the timber rights to lumber mills at a higher price. They promised investors a return of 10% or more over 12 or 13 months.

U.S. Attorney Darren LaMarca said in 2021 that Alexander and Seawright were "downplaying and concealing" the fact that there were no real contracts for timber and lumber mills and the "broker" was Madison Timber Properties, LLC, a company wholly owned by Adams.

Eichelberger’s statement this week said Alexander apologizes to the court and to his family, friends, colleagues and the investors " for embroiling them in this controversy."

"He will do everything he can to help make his investors whole," Eichelberger said.

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