Attorney General Chris Carr today announced that the office’s Prosecution Division has indicted* Douglas Peterson, a former professor at the University of Georgia’s Warnell School of Forestry, on charges of Racketeering and Theft by Taking. The Oconee County Superior Court returned the indictment on March 23, 2021.
“We appreciate the Oconee County Grand Jury for their careful consideration of this case,” said Attorney General Chris Carr. “After it was communicated to him that the proceeds of the school’s program should go towards conservation and aquaculture research efforts, the defendant instead devised a scheme and diverted roughly half of the funds from the school’s program to his own personal accounts. We intend to hold him accountable for these alleged criminal acts.”
“Diverting proceeds meant to fund valuable research at UGA being used for personal gain is unacceptable,” said GBI Director Vic Reynolds. “The GBI is committed to investigating fraud and theft cases to bring them to a successful prosecution.”
As part of his research at UGA, the defendant pioneered an environmentally sustainable method for farming sturgeon. The sturgeon are raised at UGA’s Cohutta Fisheries Center located in Cohutta, Georgia. When the sturgeon are ready to be harvested, UGA employees harvest the caviar and then package and ship the products. All proceeds from the sale of UGA caviar were supposed to support sturgeon conservation and aquaculture research at UGA. However, instead of directing all proceeds from the sale of caviar back into UGA as required, the defendant, without authority, personally received roughly half of the proceeds.
Between March 12, 2012, and February 15, 2018, the Defendant personally received 77 payments for alleged “Consultation Services” in connection with the sale of UGA caviar, totaling $208,229.00.
If convicted, each count enumerated above is punishable as follows:
- Racketeering: 5-20 years, a fine up to three times the amount of any pecuniary value gained by him or her from such violation
- Theft by Taking: 1-5 years, fine up to $100,000
The case was investigated the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
*Members of the public should keep in mind that indictments contain only allegations against the individual against whom the indictment is sought. A defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and it will be the government’s burden at trial to prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the allegations contained in the indictment.