James Albert Lawhorne, Jr., former CEO of Cypress Creek Organic Farms, Inc., pleaded guilty in Huntsville before Madison County Circuit Judge James P. Smith to two counts of Securities Fraud relating to an investment scheme involving the company.
In accordance with his plea agreement, Lawhorne admitted to each fraud count, Class B Felonies with a maximum sentence of twenty years in prison and a fine up to $30,000. In return for his guilty plea, the State asked the Court to impose a fifteen year sentence on each count, which will run concurrently. Lawhorne will also pay restitution of about $2.1 million to the victims and to be forced to give up money taken during his Florida arrest and from a bank account.
Lawhorne owned Cypress Creek and served as its CEO. The company began in April 2013 with the purpose of recruiting people to grow organic tomatoes. In return for a $9,950 investment, the company would provide all of the testing, equipment, training, certification, and support requirement for growing organic tomatoes. Lawhorne additionally claimed that he had entered into a contract with a major grocery chain to buy the organic tomatoes. However, no such contract existed, and Lawhorne received more than $2 million while failing to fulfill his end of the bargain.
“Lawhorne’s acts and false representations persuaded investors to part with their hard earned money. Many of the investors were farmers who pulled money from their retirement accounts in hopes of building a stronger financial future by earning money part-time growing tomatoes,” said Amanda W. Senn, General Counsel of the Alabama Securities Commission. “We will continue to aggressively pursue those who devise investment scams to fleece folks of their savings and retirement funds.”
If you or someone you know has lost money as a result of an investment or Ponzi scheme, please contact Richard Frankowski at 888-741-7503 to discuss your potential legal remedies or complete the contact form.