Seven plus years in federal prison is no fun! Yet, for her fraudulent activities that is exactly what Carol Estep, age 54, of Hurley, Virginia got. “This defendant made one false statement after another, all in the name of greed,” U.S. Attorney John Brownlee said today. “In order to line her own pockets, Ms. Estep stole money from disabled individuals who were truly in need of financial assistance.”
As a white collar crime speaker, I often state that Every choice has a consequence. In the case of Estep her choices have significant consequences not only to herself but others she was associated with. Not only was a fraud committed by Estep – her son, Timothy Carl Ling, age 30, and Herman Scott Ling, age 67, her ex-husband were involved in the several frauds committed. Herman Scott Ling was sentenced to five years probation.
The charges to which Timothy Carl Ling, Estep, and Herman Scott Ling pleaded guilty to centered around numerous fraudulent schemes. These schemes included a mail fraud scheme in which the family defrauded the Virginia Consumer Services Fund and received money to which they were not entitled by falsely claiming that Timothy Carl Ling was a quadriplegic. The Virginia Consumer Services Fund and Clinch Independent Living Services, Inc., which provides funding and services to disabled individuals so that they may live a more independent life, purchased a specially equipped van and built ramps at Estep’s home based upon the pair’s fraudulent representations that Timothy Carl Ling was a quadriplegic. According to testimony presented at the sentencing hearing, the agencies spent more than 50 staff hours and more than $14,000.00 assisting Timothy Carl Ling and Estep, money and time that could have been used to help the 2,000 other individuals with disabilities serviced in Buchanan, Dickenson, Russell, and Tazewell Counties by these agencies.
Timothy Carl Ling had previously pleaded guilty to Social Security fraud in which he admitted that he was fabricating his quadriplegia in order to avoid being sent to prison for probation violations pending in Buchanan County, Virginia. I must admit in writing about many white collar crime issues, I haven’t run across someone that creative. Faking a medical condition to avoid prison is gutsy and, no doubt, will result in significant prison time when sentencing arises.
Additionally, Timothy Carl Ling and Estep perpetrated a credit card fraud scheme between the summer of 2005 and October 2006 in which they defrauded five separate credit card companies and incurred a loss to these companies and merchants of $344,465.09. The money was used for shopping sprees, vacations, casino gambling, and to purchase property in both Pikeville, Kentucky, and Hurley, Virginia.
Estep and Timothy Carl Ling were in the process of building two houses in Pikeville, Kentucky. In the course of that scheme, Timothy Carl Ling and Estep used the social security number and date of birth of another family member in order to attempt to hide their criminal conduct and falsely implicate this individual.
What a massive fraud with far reaching tentacles. But, it doesn’t start with what written above – using some of the proceeds of the credit card fraud, Timothy Carl Ling and Estep, both recipients of Social Security disability benefits, established a recycling business in Hurley, Virginia, known as “The Yard,” which posted gross profits of $210,641.93, during 2005 and 2006. The profits from “The Yard” were divided between Timothy Carl Ling, Estep, and others. None of these individuals reported their income to the Internal Revenue Service or the Social Security Administration Office and Timothy Carl Ling, Estep, and Herman Ling actively tried to hide this income from the Internal Revenue Service by engaging in money laundering transactions.
Wow…social security fraud, tax fraud, wire fraud, – this would be a good movie if it weren’t so sad. From personal experience, I speak to group about the Truth about Consequences. In most cases, one can trace back white collar crime to three key components: NEED – OPPORTUNITY – AND RATIONALIZATION.
If anyone is familiar with Estep and the others, and have some insight into the fraud and crimes…feel free to comment. It would be interesting to understand how and why something like this was done.