Mountain Judicial Circuit District Attorney Brian Rickman said part of the $330,000 in settlement money would be used to pay back victims who can prove their property was purchased by either Carter’s Royal Dispos-All or J.V. Whitlock Recycle.
John Levis Carter agreed to settle his civil complaint last week for $150,000. Jeff V. Whitlock Jr. previously had agreed to a $180,000 penalty. Nine people who were arrested in simultaneous Nov. 30 raids still face criminal charges that came after a nine-month undercover investigation.
Those eligible for restitution payments are victims who can verify that illegal payments were made by either scrap yard for their property, Rickman said.
Allan Ramsay, the receiver appointed to handle the oversight of the two businesses while their civil penalties were being hammered out, is in charge of the restitution fund. He said victims whose property was purchased by J.V. Whitlock Recycle had until April 23 to file a claim and victims of Carter’s Royal Dispos-All had until June 4. To file a claim, one can call Ramsay at 706-886-3178; email him at firstname.lastname@example.org; or write him at 38 Falls Road, Toccoa, GA 30577. He will send potential victims claim forms to be filled out.
“They have to show that what they had stolen was sold at either Whitlock’s or Carter’s,” Ramsay said.
He acknowledged that establishing proof of illegal scrap metal payments could be difficult. For instance, someone who had all of the copper stripped out of a house would have a hard time proving where the metal was sold. That, of course, was the whole point of the investigation. The criminal complaints allege that both scrap yards were violating state law by failing to get photo identification and license plate numbers of those selling scrap metal.
Rabun County sheriff’s investigators helped spur the joint investigation because of the opposition they were getting when they went to Stephens County to check records at the two scrap yards.
“That’s why the law is particular about scrap yards keeping track of whom they buy items from because it helps law enforcement trace it,” Ramsay said.
Rabun County sheriff’s Chief Investigator Gerald Johnson said the number of reported metal thefts seems to have declined in recent months. He said that could be attributed to several factors. One is the price of scrap metal has declined from $13 per 100 pounds to $11. Another factor is related to the close scrutiny directed toward metal sales in the region.
One of Ramsay’s duties as receiver was to make sure both scrap yards followed the law. “While that was going on, with us looking over their shoulders, I think everything was fine,” he said.
Because Whitlock’s settled its civil complaint earlier, the deadline for filing a claim is sooner than Carter’s. Ramsay said he had received fewer than 10 claims so far.
Allyn Stockton, who is representing John Carter, said any delay in reaching a settlement for his client was due to hammering out the details.
“I think Mr. Carter’s just happy to have this part of it behind him,” Stockton said. He added that negotiations for reaching a settlement in the criminal case were ongoing.
Rickman said two defendants were scheduled to enter pleas Wednesday in Stephens County Superior Court. Sharon Lee Rollins and Eric Keith Whitlock have agreed to plead guilty to single counts of making false statements and computer forgery. The negotiated terms will require Rollins to be on probation for 10 years and for Whitlock to be on probation for seven years. Each will have to complete six months of intensive probation.