Verso analyst accused of stealing $10M

Posted Nov. 09, 2009, at 8:17 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:54 a.m.

BUCKSPORT, Maine — A federal grand jury in Memphis, Tenn., has indicted an analyst for Verso Paper Co. on charges of embezzling more than $10 million from the paper company.

Verso is a leading North American producer of coated paper with Maine mills in Bucksport and Jay, as well as mills in Michigan and Minnesota.

The indictment against Walter Thomas Williams III, 41, of Hernando, Miss., aka Thom W. Williams, charges him with 31 counts of wire fraud violation. The charges are the result of investigations conducted by the Memphis Division of the FBI.

According to the indictment documents, Williams was working for Verso as a disbursement analyst at an annual salary of about $70,000. The indictment charges that Williams diverted more than $10 million from Verso’s bank account to three separate personal accounts that he allegedly opened at banks in Tennessee, Mississippi and Georgia. The wire transfers allegedly took place between March 2008 and October 2009 and involved amounts ranging from $15,886.87 to $782,556.32.

The indictment also says that Williams spent much of the stolen money on jewelry, real estate and cars, including two 2010 Jaguars and a 2009 Porsche, among a number of others.

If found guilty, Williams faces a fine of up to $250,000 on each count and imprisonment for up to 20 years.

Verso spokeswoman Sondra Dowdell said Monday she could not discuss the indictment because it remains part of an ongoing investigation. Dowdell noted, however, that the company did refer to the case in its quarterly filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

According to that information, there is no evidence that any of the company’s vendors were harmed as a result of Williams’ actions.

On Oct. 12, Verso filed a civil lawsuit against Williams and his wife in state court in DeSoto County, Miss., seeking damages arising from embezzlement and injunctive relief to prevent the Williamses from transferring or diminishing their assets.

“The court promptly issued a temporary restraining order and prejudgment attachment, and subsequently issued a permanent injunction, which authorize us to seize the Williamses’ property and to have their bank and other financial accounts frozen and held in trust for our benefit,” Verso said in its statement. “Pursuant to these court orders, we have moved aggressively to seize the Williamses’ assets, including cash, real estate, motor vehicles, and assorted personal property.”

The company also has filed a claim under its insurance policy which provides $10 million in coverage after a $150,000 deductible.

Last week, the company filed its third-quarter report, which included $150,000 in anticipated losses and a $10 million receivable for funds Verso expects to recover.

“The effect of the embezzlement in prior periods did not result in a material misstatement of our previously issued financial statements,” according to its statement.

The quarterly SEC filing showed a strong growth in net income despite slightly lower sales. The company reported net income of $43.5 million in the third quarter compared with $18.5 million in 2008.

Net sales have decreased in 2009 to $394.7 million compared with $485.4 million last year. Those decreases were offset by savings from reduced restructuring charges and income from tax credits.

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