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Georgia Chopsticks update: Police complaint filed

7:39 PM, Mar 20, 2012   |    comments
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  • Chopsticks for China...made in Georgia!
  • Jae Lee, owner of Georgia Chopsticks in Americus
  • Poplar trees from S. Central Georgia are just the right type of wood for chopstick-making.
    

AMERICUS, Ga. (WXIA) -- It was one of those gee whiz stories that made news all over the world.

Last summer we told you about a small company in Americus, Georgia that was started to sell chopsticks to China.

That's right, China, and much of the rest of Asia.

Co-owner Jae Lee promised hundreds of jobs to turn out millions of disposable chopsticks a week from Georgia poplar trees.

But now Americus Police are investigating a theft complaint from Top Holding Management Group of Overland Park, Kansas.

The complaint was filed by representative Deb Leslie.

She claimed Lee wrote them a $1.3 million check last month that bounced.

11Alive News reached Leslie by phone on Tuesday, but she refused to discuss her complaint.

Americus Police Major Richard McCorkle confirmed it but said the investigation is just beginning.

"Right now we don't know if this will end up being a criminal or civil matter," he told 11Alive News.

Maj. McCorkle said it could be handled simply as a bad check charge the "same as if it were a $13 check".

We also learned that Georgia Chopsticks was denied nearly a million dollars in loans and community development grants.

Last fall the cities of Americus and nearby River Valley each approved a $200,000 loan for the company.

Americus also submitted paperwork for a $500,000 state grant from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

Americus Mayor Barry Blount told 11Alive News the loans and grant were not approved because Georgia Chopsticks did not meet all the conditions.

No one returned our phone calls to the Georgia Chopsticks factory in Americus.

We were able to reach co-owner J. David Hughes of Griffin.

Hughes said the company cut back production in December and January to run some test products.

But he said they are still in business and shipped 12 to 14-million chopsticks to Asia last Friday.

Hughes also said he and co-owner Lee are planning a trip to China and other Asian countries in April.

He called the dispute over the $1.3 million check a "misunderstanding" and said they hoped to work everything out soon.

As for the nearly million dollars in lost loans and grants, Hughes said the company didn't want to go through all the bureaucracy to qualify and didn't need the money.

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