It happens once every four years – leap year that is. Should that mean anything unusual? Can’t say that I can trace it back four years, but this week this year was especially ripe for white collar crime in Texas. Maybe the federal government is more focused in this arena. Whatever the reason, below you’ll see a brief synopsis of the week in review.
Let’s start in the Southern District for Texas (Houston Area):
Priscilla A. Thomas, age 39, (Houston, TX) plead guilty to mail fraud in connection with a false claim for Hurricane Katrina disaster assistance. Thomas was charged in a three-count indictment relating to three false claims for Hurricane Katrina disaster assistance. The claims were filed on or about Sept. 11, 2005, each falsely claiming primary residence in New Orleans, La., at the time of Hurricane Katrina. Thomas claimed that as a result of damage to her primary residence, she had an essential need for food, clothing and shelter as a result of the storm. Upon filing the claims, Thomas provided a Houston address as her current mailing address where payments were sent and subsequently received.
Uzoma Okechukwu Osuagwu, age 36, was sentenced to over 14.5 years in federal prison for conspiracy to launder funds, procuring U.S. citizenship by fraud and identity theft. Court documents demonstrated Osuagwu obtained stolen confidential bank account and identity information of numerous individuals which was used to transfer funds from the compromised accounts to bank accounts controlled by one of Osuagwu’s co-conspirators. After the funds reached the controlled account, they were withdrawn by check writing, automated teller withdrawals, money order purchases and other financial transactions.
Anthony D. Thurman, age 26, (Houston, TX) plead guilty to one count of health care fraud and one count of conspiracy. Thurman is the final defendant to plead in a three-defendant case, involving his mother, Sandra Thurman Patino, 44, and his cousin, Katrice Oliver, 25. Patino and Oliver will be sentenced in August. All three defendants helped run two Houston durable medical equipment (DME) companies, Thurman Family Medical Services and Seniors Comfort & Caring Medical Services. From 2002 through 2003, these two companies billed Medicare for DME, primarily for motorized wheelchairs and related accessories, but delivered less expensive scooters. A motorized wheelchair and its accessories were reimbursed at a rate of approximately $5,000 in this time frame, while a scooter’s cost was approximately $800-1,200 wholesale. In all, the two companies billed Medicare approximately $3.9 million and were paid approximately $2.6 million.
Agustin Dovalina III, the former chief of the Laredo Police Department (LPD), was sentenced for committing Hobbs Act extortion. The government’s evidence showed that on or about January 2006, with Sgt. Alfonso Santos acting as the middleman, the (cooperating witness) CW provided Chief Dovalina funds to pay for golf tournament fees and golf equipment. As the relationship progressed, when Dovalina needed funds, Santos would arrange lunch meetings between the CW and Dovalina. Dovalina received $5,000 June 22, 2006, from the CW for personal expenses and a second $5,000 payment Sept. 25, 2006, both of which were captured on audio and videotape. On Nov. 8-9, 2006, Dovalina met the CW for lunch, and through Santos and Lt. Eloy Rodriguez, thereafter received two $1,000 bribe payments from the CW. Dovalina’s lunch meeting with the CW prior the delivery of the two $1,000 bribe payments was also captured on audio and videotape. The recordings prove that in exchange for the bribe payments, Dovalina offered, among other things, to re-divide the sectors at LPD to keep Rodriguez and Santos in their positions to oversee the CW’s illegal eight-liner business, and to close down a competitor of the CW’s business.
Edward E. Villarreal, 53, of Corpus Christi, has been sentenced for accepting a $5,000 bribe. Villarreal was an engineer technician in the Public Works Department at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi. He pleaded guilty Dec. 19, 2007, for accepting a $5,000 bribe in exchange for recommending Contract Construction and Fence Company (CCFC) for a fencing contract in the amount to $153,000 at the Naval Air Station. The bribe was paid in two installments during meetings with agents of CCFC, the second of which was captured on audio.
Sharif J. Reid, 33, has pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit credit card fraud and one count of credit card fraud. Reid admitted he participated in a 17-month conspiracy with several other individuals, including Nandasharie Shivmangal, 31, to commit credit card fraud through the use of counterfeit credit cards in names other than his or Shivmangal’s. The FBI and League City Police Department conducted a search of Reid’s residence, Sept. 7, 2007, resulting in the seizure of approximately 100 counterfeit cards, two cash register rolls with approximately 1800 additional credit card numbers, counterfeit drivers licenses, a document shredder, a bag of shredded credit cards and approximately $300,000 in electronic equipment, gold and diamond jewelry, designer clothing and shoes. Reid further admitted he and Shivmangal deposited more than $505,000 in cash from April 2006 through September 2007 into bank accounts under their control.
A former United States Postal employee has pleaded guilty to five counts of mail fraud. Dwayne Mickens, 37, of Deer Park, Texas, began his employment with the USPS in 1992 as a temporary employee until his service became permanent in 1999. Once he became a permanent employee, he was continually employed by the USPS until July 27, 2007. However, from June 1997 through February 2007, Mickens misrepresented his earning to the (Texas Workforce Commission) TWC, and, as a result, was over-paid $43,878 in unemployment insurance benefits, to which he was not entitled.
Kretia Griffin, 39, and Aubry Johnson, 35, have been sentenced for their roles in an identity theft scheme that resulted in actual losses of more than $184,000. Agents with the United States Secret Service became aware of the scheme in September 2006 when loss prevention investigators with Target Corporation provided store video surveillance tapes of various individuals opening and using new Target VISA accounts. All of the accounts had been opened with the unauthorized use of other individuals’ Social Security numbers. In February 2007, Johnson and another individual were arrested when the other individual used a stolen identity, including another person’s Social Security number, to open an instant credit account at Wal-Mart. In the vehicle with Johnson at the time of his arrest were 26 pieces of paper containing the personal identifiers of 26 different individuals with the same name as the personal identity used to open the Wal-Mart account. The papers appeared to have medical billing information and were subsequently traced back to the Kelsey-Seybold Medical Group business office. The director of operations identified Kelsey-Seybold employee Griffin as the person who had accessed the billing account information without authorization. When interviewed by Secret Service agents, Griffin confessed to having accessed the account information for approximately two years and to providing the information to Johnson in return for cash.
Wow…that’s a lot for just one week and that’s in the Southern District alone…!
Now Let’s move to the Northern District for Texas (DFW Area):
Gary R. Trebert, 57, pled guilty to two counts of an indictment that charged him with various offenses related to his operation of nursing homes in Texas and elsewhere. Trebert admitted that beginning in August 1999 and continuing though mid-May 2004, he, Stephen Michael Ewing and Larry May conspired together, and with others, to defraud the U.S. by impeding, impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful government functions of the IRS in the ascertainment, computation, assessment, and collection of the revenue, that is, nursing facility employees’ withheld income taxes, social security taxes and medicare taxes, and HHS in the administration of the Social Security Act and the Medicare and Medicaid programs. U.S. Attorney Richard Roper said, “This case is the one of the largest payroll tax fraud cases ever prosecuted in the U.S. Mr. Trebert admitted evading more than $34 million in payroll taxes – this is nothing short of egregious. Nursing homes should be safe havens for the elderly and vulnerable, not vehicles for criminals to commit fraud.”
Following 20 minutes of deliberation, a federal jury in Dallas has convicted James L. Fantroy, Sr., a former Dallas City Council Member and a former member of the Board of Directors and Treasurer of Paul Quinn College Community Development Corporation (Paul Quinn CDC) in Dallas, on an indictment that charged him with one count of embezzlement and theft from a program receiving federal funds. From April 26, 2003, through July 30, 2003, James L. Fantroy, Sr., acting as an agent for Paul Quinn College, embezzled approximately $21,000 in monies held in trust for Paul Quinn College.
A 14-count federal indictment was unsealed today that charges Amarillo, Texas, resident, John Joseph Baumgartner with several felony offenses related to a mortgage fraud scheme. Baumgartner, 45, was arrested without incident on those charges at the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, where he is employed by the National Nuclear Security Administration. The indictment alleges that in September 2006, Baumgartner applied for and obtained an $840,000 conventional, cash-out refinance mortgage for a property located at 1022 South Wilton Place in Los Angeles. As part of the scheme, Baumgartner falsely represented that he was purchasing the Wilton Place property as his current and primary residence. Baumgartner misrepresented his income and retirement account funds and misrepresented that he had rental property on Briarwood Drive in Amarillo that generated $1700 per month in rental income. When Baumgartner obtained the refinancing funds, he didn’t use them in the manner he represented in his application for refinancing, but instead diverted the bulk of the funds to a casino account at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.
Of the items mentioned above 27% are female and 73% are male. 13% of the folks either indicted or convicted of white collar offenses are in their 20’s; 47% are in their 30’s; and 20% are in either their 40’s or 50’s. And, based on the brief summary above, they come from all walks of life.
Perhaps, if there were a way to have effective communication, the message that every choice has a consequence would be highly appropriate. As a speaker, and having been there myself, I know the challenges these individuals are and will be facing soon. Perhaps, their loss now, will prove to be a learning environment and allow them to be productive in the future.
One thing is for sure…each day we get the chance to choose! Make choices wisely.
On a crisp October day in 1995, I took 23 physical steps… opened a door… and began a new experience that was life-changing. In a style that is far more vulnerable than most motivational keynote speakers, I share the painful lessons of life with my audience and touch them forever.
My Poignant, High-Energy, Thought-Provoking and Honest Motivational Presentations Show Organizations how to:
- Transform self-limiting beliefs into personal and organizational success
- Help employees increase ethics awareness and reduce fraud
- Understand the effect of choices on their personal and professional lives
Every choice has a consequence! Do your employees make the best choices for your company – or for themselves? Most organizations are vulnerable to unethical activities at any level. My message, as a keynote business ethics speaker, crystallizes, for those who hear, the critical importance of making the right choices and the positive results that can follow…a must for those who want to promote individual and organizational integrity in the workplace.
For information on how I can help your organization in a positive and meaningful way – contact me through www.chuckgallagher.com. Talk to you soon!