Embezzlement scheme alleged at Tacoma lumber supplier

A Seattle grand jury has indicted eight people following an investigation into an alleged scheme to defraud Manke Lumber of Tacoma, Wash. Federal investigators claim that Brett Smith, a “scaler” who was responsible for inspecting and purchasing logs at Manke’s Tacoma sawmill, recruited individuals to receive payments for logs they never delivered.

According to the indictment, filed June 4 in U.S. District Court, the fraudulent payments took place over a two-year period, from November 2004 to July 2006. The total amount exceeded $2.5 million.

Smith is being charged with 11 counts of mail fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. He is currently a fugitive, according to court records.

Also under indictment is Jeffrey Ogburn, another Manke employee who, according to investigators, assisted in the scheme. The grand jury also indicted Smith's brother, Bryan Smith, and Elaine Turner, Jennifer Carino, Robert Lester, Robert Daniels and Zedrick Carter. Investigators say these individuals either helped recruit people to cash checks from Manke Lumber or were check recipients who kept a percentage of the proceeds and sent the rest to Brett Smith.

Manke Lumber is a family owned operation that operates three Washington State mills in Tacoma, Sumner and Shelton.

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