(WHNT) - Tomato farmers left high and dry across the Tennessee Valley may be surprised to know the man who left them in a lurch is back in business.
It all started with Cypress Creek Organic Farms. The claim? Growing organic tomatoes could turn a big profit.
WHNT News 19 is Taking Action to expose how a similar promise by the same man is happening in North Carolina.
It used to be follow the tomato. Now, it’s find the worm. A North Carolina company called 'Wormzorganic' provides everything you need.
You and your worms produce the soil, and Wormzorganic buys everything you produce. The company claims you can make $10,000+ in your first year.
This is basically the same spiel local tomato farmers here in the Tennessee Valley heard in 2013. Read and watch our investigation on Cypress Creek Organic Farms from September 2013.
However, those promises came up short, after hundreds of affiliate farmers shelled out thousands, only to have the business model collapse.
Now, more than 116 associate growers in North Carolina are wondering if the very same mess is headed their way. They just found out their CEO, Jim Gilley, is actually none other than former Cypress Creek owner Jaime Lawhorne.
An email exchange with the subject line “More Drama” was given to WHNT News 19 by a farmer, detailing the reason behind the phony alias.
"My name is Jaime Lawhorne, most of you know me as Jim Gilley, which is a company I own called Jim Gilley Enterprises, which owns 80% of WormzOrganic, LLC. I had to use an undercover boss approach because of my other companies having issues and I did not want the bad press," the email reads.
WHNT News 19 spoke with Jamie Lawhorne on Tuesday about the worm business in North Carolina. We asked him why he’s taking money from new farmers, but not taking care of his unpaid debts here.
Lawhorne says he's using the worm business as infrastructure for Cypress Creek Organic Farms and he plans on returning to Alabama in September to help get the business back on track.
In the meantime, while several agencies including the Alabama Securities Commission continue to investigate Lawhorne, former affiliate farmers here at home await justice.