Criminal Justice

Former Baker Donelson lobbyist pleads guilty for role in timber investment scheme

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A former Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz lobbyist pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiracy to commit wire fraud for participating in a scheme to defraud investors in timber investments.

Former lobbyist Ted Brent Alexander admitted participating in a scheme that solicited millions of dollars from investors who were led to think that he was personally inspecting tracts of timber that were the basis for their investments, according to an April 27 press release from the Department of Justice.

Law360 has coverage.

Alexander pleaded guilty in federal court in Jackson, Mississippi.

Former Baker Donelson partner Jon D. Seawright pleaded guilty in July 2022 to a conspiracy to defraud investors in the same scheme. He was accused of soliciting the investors along with Alexander and misrepresenting their due diligence in vetting the timber contracts.

Investors were told that rights to the timber were sold to a timber broker, who then sold the timber rights to lumber mills at a higher price. Alexander said he loaned funds to the timber broker, and investors could reap a return of 10% or more on their investment, according to the press release.

Alexander represented that he was not only inspecting the timberland but also reviewing documentation supporting the investments.

“If Alexander and his co-conspirator had made such inquiries,” the press release said, “they would have discovered that the timber deeds, lumber mill agreements, and related documents had been falsified and were not valid.”

Alexander also gave the misleading impression that he would profit only if the investments performed as promised, according to the press release. He failed to disclose, however, that he also made money by obtaining investments.

Baker Donelson has previously said it has no involvement in the scheme. The firm told Law360 in a statement that Alexander’s plea concerns entities that had no affiliation with Baker Donelson. The law firm never represented the timber broker or entities involved in the scheme “and never profited in any way” from the entities, the statement said.

Law360 spoke with Alexander’s lawyer, Matthew Eichelberger, following the guilty plea.

“Brent apologizes to the court, to his family, his friends, his colleagues and in particular his investors for embroiling them in this controversy,” Eichelberger told Law360. “He will do everything he can to help make his investors whole. Finally, he expresses his profound appreciation for the many people who have stood by him through this ordeal and provided solace and support as he navigated his way through this process.”

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