Convicted man violates probation, transports illegal guns

Published 11:41 am Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A Decatur County man convicted in 2011 of using company purchase orders to upgrade his personal property is facing new criminal charges filed by the Decatur County Sheriff’s Office.

Eric David Hyatt, 57, of 3075 Lake Douglas Road, Bainbridge, was arrested by Sheriff’s investigators on Monday afternoon and charged with violating the terms of his probation on the previous charges, possession of firearms by a convicted felon and violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).

Hyatt, who was formerly an employee with BASF Catalysts LLC’s Attapulgus operation, was accused in December 2010 of using the company’s money to buy numerous items for personal use, including an engine and other parts for his airplane, computers and accessories. Hyatt also used the money to work on his house, his boat and his motorcycle.

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Almost all of that property was taken away from Hyatt and only returned to his ownership after he agreed to pay restitution of $132,094.49 to BASF and fines of $220,000 to Decatur County. Hyatt could have faced prison time, but by paying the restitution and fines, was sentenced to serve 20 years on probation.

However, the terms of that probation specified that Hyatt was not to leave Georgia at any time without prior permission from a state probation officer, according to Inv. Brian Donalson of the DCSO.

Donalson said investigators recently received information that Hyatt had been making trips to Sylcauga, Ala., about 50 miles southeast of Birmingham, Ala., using his Cessna plane. Investigators contacted the Federal Aviation Administration and found several interstate flight plans that Hyatt had filed over the past two years, despite getting permission to leave the state on only two occasions in 2011, Donalson said.

Hyatt was apparently using his plane to transport the guns he owned, which were being stored at a relative’s house in Sylcauga, back to Decatur County, Donalson said. Hyatt had already been convicted of illegally possessing those guns as a convicted felon and wasn’t supposed to have them in his possession any more, Donalson said.

Sheriff’s deputies executed a search warrant at Hyatt’s home on Monday afternoon and found “more than 10” firearms, including both handguns and long guns, inside.

Hyatt was also charged with violating the RICO Act again because “obstruction of justice is one of the patterns of racketeering” described in the law, Donalson said.