Former organic farm CEO, VP indicted on securities charges

James Lawhorne, former CEO of Cypress Creek Organic Farms. (Source: Metro Jail)
James Lawhorne, former CEO of Cypress Creek Organic Farms. (Source: Metro Jail)
Jacqueline Wilson was the former vice-president of the farm venture. (Source: Metro Jail)
Jacqueline Wilson was the former vice-president of the farm venture. (Source: Metro Jail)

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - The man behind a failed Tennessee Valley tomato business is now facing charges in the state of Alabama, as is the woman who was named vice-president of the now-defunct company.

James Lawhorne is in the Huntsville-Madison County Jail on 24 charges from investigators (PDF) with the Alabama Securities Commission, including theft by deception, misrepresentation of sale, and sale of unregistered securities.

His company, Cypress Creek Organic Farms, shut down last year, leaving dozens of investors at a loss. Law enforcement in Tennessee also had an unrelated warrant issued for his arrest for fraud.

The company's then-Vice President, Jacqueline Wilson, whose indictment says also goes by the name Jackie Rose, is also charged with securities fraud and the sale of unregistered securities. She is out of jail on a $10,000 bond.

Lawhorne and Wilson addressed our cameras last year to defend an F-rating on their company from the Better Business Bureau, shortly after claims began to mount about the legitimacy of their venture.

The pair is connected to another business in North Carolina, called Wormz Organic. Like his tomato business, Lawhorne's next company promised to provide worms; growers would then produce the soil and turn a profit.

Growers in that state are now at a loss after workers went on strike, shutting the facility down after finding out Lawhorne was hiding under the alias of Jim Gilley.

Authorities caught up with him after being picked up on a DUI. He was extradited to Tennessee to face the aforementioned fraud charges before being transported once more to Madison County.

Marguerite McClintock is one of the dozens who trusted the man behind the promises in the tomato farm pitch.

McClintock didn't sign on to be an affiliate farmer, but instead helped out with the business. She helped teach sustainable, organic farming techniques and offered her property as a greenhouse to showcase for potential affiliates.

Despite an early red flag, McClintock said Lawhorne was well-spoken, smart, and touted a business plan she could be passionate about.

"I actually admired the guy," McClintock said. "I thought, well, maybe it is just a bad business."

Then the business began to unravel. Employees left the company, affiliates sued, and McClintock says Lawhorne even tried to pass some of the blame onto her.

"At that point I realized he was setting us up and he is a liar, period. When you lie and have all of that history, that makes you a con-man," she said.

"Part of me wants to cry," she continued. "At some point, the lying has got to stop."

Lawhorne's bond is set at $600,000. Although it is likely the hundreds who invested thousands will have to count their losses, many share the sentiments of McClintock.

"I hope the state does not take it too lightly, because there are too many good people," she said.

Click here for all of our coverage on the Lawhorne investigation.

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