published Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

Chattanooga landscaping business accused of being front for international money-laundering operation

Landscaping?

U.S. Attorney Bill Killian has indicted a Chattanooga man accused of operating a landscaping business that functioned as a front for a two-year international money-laundering operation that netted $90,000 in illegal funds.

Defendant James C. Pittman is accused of working with two unnamed co-conspirators to funnel bribe money from Afghanistan to the United States, according to the indictment.

The money, shipped to Chattanooga in large crates, came from an unnamed U.S. Army official who worked in Afghanistan, the indictment states. This U.S. Army official allegedly accepted bribes from contractors who thought the payments would help them win contracts with the Army, according to the indictment.

Rather than deposit the bribes directly in the bank, which presumably would have raised suspicions, the unnamed Army official instead partnered with Pittman -- an old Army buddy from Fort Campbell -- to launder the money. Pittman paid the corrupt Army official back for the boxes of cash by giving him a "salary" from the company bank account, thereby cleaning the money, Killian said.

The scam was a family affair. In addition to funneling bribes directly through Pittman, the unnamed Army official also sent boxes of cash to his own father, who also remains unnamed. Pittman laundered that money too, according to the U.S. Attorney.

A person named James Carlton Pittman obtained a business license for A & J Total Landscapes in 2007, but the phone number for that business has since been disconnected and attempts to reach Pittman and Killian were unsuccessful.

Pittman will have to forfeit all proceeds and any property, real or personal, involved in the conspiracy. If the money has already been spent, prosecutors will attempt to seek the forfeiture of "substitute property," prosecutors said.

Typically, co-conspirators remain unnamed until a grand jury's indictments are unsealed.

Contact staff writer Ellis Smith at 423-757-6315 or at esmith@timesfreepress.com.

about Ellis Smith...

Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...

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