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Embezzlement scheme alleged at Tacoma lumber supplier

BY HBSDEALER Staff

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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Oregon home builder files for bankruptcy

BY HBSDEALER Staff

One of Oregon’s larges home builders, Legend Homes, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Under the name Legend Homes/Matrix Development, the builder filed for bankruptcy protection at the Portland, Ore., United States District Court yesterday, following a drop-off in home sales and a poor return on land investments in the region.

The primary reason for the filing, according to a statement from the company, was to protect the company’s home building operations from margin calls on land holdings by lenders. Margin calls result when properties drop in value, pushing loan ratios beyond the terms of the original loan.

“Because of recent issues related to the national credit crisis, we understand the need of our financial partners to stay viable and also stay within federal mandates. Yet we had to make this necessary move to protect our interests,” said Legend Homes’ president Jim Chapman in a statement.

The company has yet to receive court approval of its bankruptcy plan, but the builder expects to emerge from bankruptcy “by year end.”

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National Hardware Show has new director

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Dean Russo has left Reed Exhibitions, where he oversaw the National Hardware Show, Lawn & Garden World and the Homewares show.

Russo had served as group vp-Reed, taking over the day-to-day business and financial operations of the National Hardware Show in January. He attended the 2008 show in Las Vegas May 6 to 8, (click here for video) which had seen an attendance increase over the 2007 show in Orlando, according to organizers.

Russo has been replaced by Ed Several, who was promoted to group vp-Reed in early June. In addition to overseeing the National Hardware Show, Several will continue to be responsible for other Reed properties — the PGA Merchandise Show, the PGA Fall Expo and the Outdoor Sports Show.

The company has not made an official statement on the departure of Russo but said it was preparing an announcement to be released in coming days.

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