SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Two men from northwest Louisiana pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud millions of dollars through the illegal sale of chicken products.
According to the evidence presented by prosecutors, 48-year-old William Ross Hickman of Arcadia and 47-year-old Brian K. Whiteman of Haughton each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud against the United States for their participation in the scheme.
The US Attorney’s Office said Hickman and Whiteman were employed as the sales manager and assistant sales managers at Raeford Farms of Louisiana.
The company sells fresh and frozen chicken as well as chicken frames. A chicken frame is the core of the chicken that remains after all other parts have been processed.
Hickman, as the sales manager, negotiated the sale of those products.
During his employment at Raeford Farms, Hickman devised a scheme to divert business from his employer using Group 7792 to purchase chicken frames from Raeford Farms. Hickman gave favorable sales terms to other associated entities while harming the company’s bottom line.
Hickman, an unnamed individual and that individual’s corporation entered an agreement to sell the chicken frames to Heritage Food Sales, another company controlled by Hickman.
Heritage Food Sales paid Group 7792 a guaranteed return for each sale, but the company never took possession of any chicken parts, frames, or anything of value. Hickman then sold the chicken frames to a poultry wholesaler in Chatanooga, Tennessee, for a profit.
Prosecutors claimed in court that Hickman and others acting in concert emailed invoices from Arcadia using interstate commerce for Heritage to receive payment for the chicken frames. Court records revealed Hickman and Whiteman conspired to hide their Heritage Farms connection from Raeford Farms in the chicken frame transactions.
Their conspiracy was aided by Whiteman’s role as Raeford’s assistant sales manager. Whiteman was responsible for tracking inventory and other shipping details in that role. This information was vital to continue defrauding Raeford Farms and getting a higher price for chicken frames sold by Heritage.
Whiteman understood that he was part of the conspiracy as he received payments from Heritage through his business entity, All Trade Enterprise, LLC.
Whiteman received monthly commission payments from Hickman through All Trade, and on some occasions, Whiteman received payments in person.
The schemes, which started in 2018, caused Raeford Farms a loss of $2,183,950.
Hickman and Whitement face up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000 when sentenced on July 12, 2023.