FBI agents interviewed Jimmy Hayes, a former bonded warehouseman for the Carter family peanut firm, for 90 minutes last evening at his south Georgia home, according to Special Agent Ed Pistey of the Atlanta FBI office.
Afterward, Pistey would say only that the two agents were returning to Atlanta "to analyze what we've got."
Hayes, in yesterday's Washington Post, was quoted as saying that he and Billy Carter, the president's brother, routinely altered records of the peanut warehouse and pledged the same collateral twice in an effort to conceal a $500,000 deficit in payments on a National Bank of Georgia loan in 1976.
Yesterday, before the interview, Pistey said, "We're going to question him about some of the information that was reported in The Washington Post. We want to explore the full breadth of what he has. He seems to be in possession of some information that indicates possible improper procedures."
Pistey said the two agents were dispatched from Atlanta at the request of FBI headquarters in Washington. The bureau had not previously interviewed Hayes because its three-week investigation into the Carter warehouse loan had been only a "preliminary inquiry. Admittedly, there were some loose ends we intend to tie up," Pistey said.
Hayes, 31, who now works at a car dealership and is a part-time preacher, told The Post in a series of interviews that the Carter warehouse fell $500,000 behind in the spring of 1976 on loan repayments to the NBG.
According to Hayes, peanuts stored in the warehouse as collateral for the loan were released in violation of the loan agreement's terms. To conceal the alleged deficit, Hayes said, dates were altered on warehouse receipts and on checks that were to go to repay the NBG loan.
A recent NBG audit disclosed that the Carter warehouse loan was in trouble in 1977 when President Carter's interest in the warehouse was in a blind trust.
Hayes' account is the first indication that problems with the loan existed in 1976, before Jimmy Carter was elected president and his 63 percent share was placed in the trust.
In another development, Atlanta attorney Charles Kirbo, who administers the blind trust in which the president's 63 percent share of the Plains peanut business is kept said company records showed no concealment of deficits or absence of collateral for the NBG loans.
"There's nothing in the company records to indicate that," Kirbo, who became trustee of Carter's private financial holdings after he took office, told United Press International. "as far as our records are concerned, we've got no record of it."
Kirbo, one of Carter's closest personal advisers, said he was not trustee at the time involved, but he said, "I don't know of any" misuse of collateral on the NBG loan.
"It sounds like the fella that they were talking to doesn't know what he's talking about," Kirbo said of The Washington Post's report. "All I know is there's nothing in the records of the company that would indicate anything wrong."
In Washington, Republican Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas said the Justice Department should appoint a special prosecutor to examine the warehouse finances.
"The time has come when it would be in the best interest of everyone, including the president, to appoint a special prosecutor to look into loans involving the National Bank of Georgia and the Carter family warehouse," Dole said.
The possible 1980 presidential contender said he had been reluctant to call for a special prosecutor because he was "extremely concerned that this not be seen as a partisan issue." But he said the allegations by Hayes "apparently would involve violations of 1976 and 1977 banking laws."