John Wiley Price – Innocent till proven Guilty or a Crook whose been nabbed by the FBI? Is there a Sprint to Judgment by the Media?

July 4, 2011

So far no one has been accused of any crimes!  You couldn’t tell it however from the media hype which most certainly will have racial overtones in this Dallas story.  So…some may ask why deal with it here – is this an ethics issue?  Good question and yes, but not perhaps for the reasons you might think.  The question I have relate to the ethics of sensationalism when no one has been accused of anything…at least not yet.

Not one to shy away from controversy…John Wiley Price will take on a fight and tell it like he sees it.  Example…in the following video Price says, “All of you are white; go to hell.”  Guess there’s a bit of a discriminatory feeling on his part.

But Mr. Price’s ethnic inclinations and hateful words are not what is driving the media today.  According to a report by Brett Shipp, “…at least six federal agents made their way inside the Millenium 2000 Gallery, where they stayed most of the day searching for records, taking photographs and looking for evidence of a crime.”  Shipp’s entire report can be seen here.

His report goes on to say:

Over the past four years, Price has used his campaign funds to purchase $46,000 in gifts and services from Manning.

Among the gifts was a $2,150 Kwanzaa gift for indicted former Constable Jaime Cortes, a $1,200 gift for mega-church pastor Ricky Rush and $2,525 in gifts for an unnamed constituents.

Among the services were campaign vehicle repairs, one of which was for $300 and another for $700 and $1,800 for vehicle wrap art.

The FBI won’t say exactly what they are looking for in Manning’s store and there is no indication that such gifts were improper.

WHAT’S ALL THE FUSS ABOUT?

With all that said and no charges filed…what’s all the fuss about?  I mean from my vantage point it seems much ado about nothing.  But, the buzz of FBI officers looking is enough to create attention…just ask Patrick Williams the author of another story on Mr. Price.

Entitled: John Wiley Price: Give the Devil His Due – Williams states:

Expect a lot of quote-trolling, thumbsucking and rumor-mongering in the weeks ahead, as hungry reporters scramble for crumbs of hard information. Nature abhors vacuums, and the 24-hour blogosphere hates them too. And since FBI agents aren’t the chattiest bunch—the local field office has a Tumblr called “We’re Not Saying Shit”—it’s going to be speculation city for a while. Did Price’s collection of questionably attained vintage cars stir the feds? Was it KwanzaaFest, Price’s charity event? What about the inland port, that transport hub Price attempted to jack? WFAA reported that Price has bought a lot of real estate lately. Ah-ha! What sort of person buys cheap real estate in a down market?

QUESTION:  Is there a Sprint to Judgment by the media in this case much like the in the Strauss-Kahn case or is there truly a smoking gun behind the actions of the FBI?

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!

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Paul Pogue Prison sentencing set for August 27th… Outcome: Probation or Prison?

August 27, 2010

I know what it feels like on a day like today.  Much like Paul Pogue has done or is doing, I, too, walked up the steps into a federal courthouse, faced a judge and heard a verdict that was life changing.  I, too, like Paul Pogue had plead guilty to tax evasion.  Our circumstances were quite different, but the crime, in the eyes of the law, was the same.

Today – Paul Pogue – steps before a judge and finds out his sentence.

For more details my past post is here:  https://chuckgallagher.wordpress.com/2010/02/24/paul-pogue-texan-guilty-of-tax-evasion-it-is-that-time-of-year/

In my case the judge said – “18 months active and 3 years probation” – and with that the gavel fell and my life changed.

By the time this is posted, Paul has likely heard his sentence.  And, while I have no crystal ball, I would suspect from the reported crime and amount of tax evaded, Paul will receive a sentence much like mine.  I’d guess 12 to 18 months active with probation following as well as order to pay back taxes, interest and penalties.  Probation is possible, but based on the sentence in another Dallas tax evasion case where a 40 month sentence was issued, it will be interesting to see if the court is lenient on Mr. Pogue.

UPDATE:  JUDGMENT – PROBATION 3 YEARS

When the sentence is reported…I will update this blog for those who follow.  Meanwhile, the following should be noted:

  • Good people can make bad choices and every choice has a consequence which can include Prison!
  • We must face the consequences of our choices and we will either – from future choices become victims or victors!
  • Paul and his family will need your support and kindness during this process which I bet is unfamiliar territory!
  • We are not defined by our past choices, rather our future and the impact we have on others is defined by the choices we make today!

As always – YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME


John Nicholas Sheets faces Prison and a $2.4 million fine for Tax Evasion. Business Ethics and the IRS

August 27, 2010

John Nicholas Sheets, a.k.a. “Nicky,” was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Jane J. Boyle to 40 months in prison and ordered to pay $2,408,662 in back taxes, announced U.S. Attorney James T. Jacks of the Northern District of Texas. Sheets pleaded guilty in March to one count of tax evasion.

As a business ethics and fraud prevention speaker, I can’t begin to tell you how many times, especially with the high profile case of Wesley Snipes, that I’ve warned folks to pay careful attention to the tax man.  Likewise, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received emails, notes and even a DVD telling me I was crazy – that the tax law is unconstitutional.

Well…I DON’T CARE about the constitutionality of the tax law, facts are, if you don’t pay your taxes – YOU’LL GO TO PRISON.  And, having been there – (not that I’m proud of that – I am not) it (PRISON) is not fun.  Put bluntly, Nicky is not going to have a good time in Club Fed!

According to documents filed, Sheets is a licensed realtor who has worked in North Texas for several years. Since 1996, Sheets and his wife have successfully worked as real estate agents and have established multiple closely-held businesses including Eleanor Mowery Sheets, Inc.; Dallas EMS, LLC; and E-Residential, LLC.

According to court records, Eleanor Mowery Sheets pleaded guilty last month to four counts of failing to pay income taxes. Her sentencing is set for October 12, 2010.

In the filed documents, John Nicholas Sheets stipulates that he has substantial unpaid individual and corporate tax debts from 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 totaling approximately $2.7 million, including penalties and interest.

Now…I can understand a mistake or misapplication or interpretation of tax law – but, Sheets efforts go above and beyond misapplication or misinterpretation to blatant fraud.  Seems that Sheets was more concerned about his lifestyle than he was about the freedom that he had as an American to pursue his American dream.

I don’t know John Nicholas Sheets, but having lived in the Dallas area for some time, I would say that he would have been looked on in his community or circle of friends as an honest, ethical business man.  If I am wrong, I hope someone will kindly share an alternative view (COMMENTS ARE WELCOME).  Assuming that he was well respected, I have ONE QUESTION:  What do you think caused Sheets to stray so far from compliance with the tax law?

According to the US Attorney’s news release:

The documents further state that beginning in 1998, rather than pay his substantial tax debts, Sheets used various business entities to conceal the nature and extent of his assets. Sheets admitted to transacting personal business and paying personal creditors with these funds, rather than paying the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Using these businesses, Sheets commingled funds to pay approximately $435,988 in mortgage interest to three lenders so that he and his wife could live in a home whose market value exceeded $1.3 million during that period. Sheets also stipulated that he used commingled funds to buy personal items (including an interest in a private airplane and vehicles) and pay numerous personal creditors.

Sheets further admitted that on April 5, 2006, he used a local check-cashing business to conceal the nature of his assets so as to avoid paying federal income taxes. Specifically, he took a $123,000 settlement check to the local check-cashing business to conceal the existence of the funds, and rather than deposit the check into his personal bank account for free, he paid more than $2000 to cash that check. None of the cash he obtained on this date was used to pay the IRS; he used the funds to pay for personal expenses and pay other creditors. The factual resume goes on to state that Sheets negotiated the check in this manner upon the advice, recommendation and suggestion of his attorney at the time.

Sheets wife (pictured above), like her husband, faces a sentence for tax evasion.  The conviction of spouses in tax crimes is becoming more common and a BIG WARNING SIGN should be out to all – that when you sign your return you should know what you’re signing, as evasion issues don’t typically rest with one party in a “married filing jointly” return.

If you know Mr. Sheets or have insight into his motives, please feel free to comment.




Brion Gary Randall facing prison for Financial Crimes… Choices and Consequences: Comments by Business Ethics and Fraud Prevention Speaker Chuck Gallagher

May 10, 2010

A Plano, Texas, man, who has admitted running a fraudulent investment scheme from 2004 through July 2009, will enter his guilty plea before U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul D. Stickney on May 18, 2010, to felony offenses related to that crime, announced U.S. Attorney James T. Jacks of the Northern District of Texas. Brion Gary Randall, 48, has signed documents, filed with the Court, pleading guilty to an Information charging one count of mail fraud and one count of bank fraud. Each count carries a maximum statutory sentence of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

According to filed plea documents, Randall worked as an investment advisor from 2004 through July 2009. During part of that time, he operated, and owned in part, 2Randall Consulting Group, LLP and also owned part of Titan Home Theater, LLC, which designed and installed commercial and residential audio/visual systems. According to a complaint filed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission against Randall and 2Randall in August 2009, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) suspended and fined Randall for improperly exercising discretion in customer accounts without prior written permission. That case is currently pending.

From 2004 through July 2009, Randall raised more than $6 million from 30 investors through a scheme in which he caused persons to invest in a number of short-term loan participation programs, which in fact, did not exist. He used investors’ funds for his own benefit and not for purposes he represented.

For example, Randall represented that he was pooling money in accounts at Chase Bank and AllianceBernstein for investment in a variety of short-term loan participation programs. Randall represented that an investor’s money in 2Randall Consulting’s account at Alliance and Chase was held in a non-taxable escrow account and fully liquid, with the investor able to withdraw his money at any time. He represented that the 2Randall consulting account at AllianceBernstein had a balance ranging from $25 million to $29 million, and that he had also invested millions of dollars of his own money into the accounts.

In reality, however, the Chase Bank and AllianceBernstein accounts were nonexistent. To further the scheme, Randall created and distributed fraudulent documents to investors, including bogus Chase Bank and AllianceBernstein account statements. He also created bogus 2Randall Consulting accounting statements and portfolio summaries. In meetings with some investors, he would display a false and fictitious computer screen shot of either the Chase Bank or AllianceBernstein account which would show the investor’s money on deposit.

Randall also represented to investors that they could invest in short-term loan participations, usually lasting 45 to 90 days and returning a high rate of interest. He sold loan participation programs in 1) Small Business Administration (SBA) loans; 2) Titan Home Theater project completion loans; and 3) loans to acquire real estate in Galveston, Texas.

For the SBA loans, Randall falsely represented to investors that they could participate with 2Randall Consulting in a short-term loan to a local company seeking an SBA loan. Randall represented that the short-term loan would provide sufficient capital to enable the company to obtain the loan at a discounted rate, and once the SBA loan closed, the company would return to 2Randall Consulting and the participating investors the principal plus 10 percent. He represented that the companies receiving the loans were reputable local businesses, including 84 Lumber, General Packaging Corporation, PerotSystems Vent-A-Hood and Richardson Bike Mart, businesses where Randall’s father had an established relationship. Randall represented that participating in an SBA loan participation program was low risk and that an investor could only lose his money if the company declared bankruptcy during the 45-90 day term of the loan. Randall knew that no such SBA loan participation agreements existed.

With regard to the Titan Home Theater project completion loans, Randall represented that investors could participate in short-term loans to Titan enabling it to complete a number of commercial projects, and that upon completion of the projects, Titan would return the principal plus up to a 22% return. Randall falsely represented that Titan was a subcontractor on several commercial projects including projects at Southern Methodist University, the Bush Library and the Dallas Cowboys stadium.

Randall also represented to investors that they could participate in short-term loans enabling him to finalize the acquisition and sale of real estate in Galveston. Randall promised that on closing, he would return the investor’s principal plus a sizeable rate of interest.

As a further part of his fraud, Randall obtained loans from financial institutions by submitting forged signatures and false and fraudulent documents. The plea documents note that Randall obtained five loans, from Bank of America, Texas Capital Bank and Wells Fargo, that all defaulted, causing a total loss to these financial institutions of nearly $875,000.

COMMENTS:

The question that I often get asked in seminars I conduct is: How can someone with reasonable intelligence get caught up in such a scam?  Answer: They get caught up in the PIT.

“P” – PROMISE – The first step to falling into a scam (especially a financial scam) is the “promise”!

“I” – The second part of falling into the scam is the – ILLUSION!

“T” – In the PIT the third and last component is TRUST.

Combine the three components and you find victim investors falling into the “PIT” as I call it.  When some one promises a 22% return – that PROMISE in and of itself is a warning sign that something is amiss!  It almost makes no difference what else might take place, the unreasonable promise of a return is a clear indication that you might be a fraud victim.  Funny, however, it seems the more focused someone is on getting something that most people can’t have the greater likelihood they will fall prey to a scam artist.

Every choice has a consequence and in this case Randall will have a long time to think about his fraud and the impact it has and will have on his life and the lives of countless others.

If you’re a victim of Randall’s fraud, I’d appreciate your comments on what took place that got you hooked.  Perhaps your comments will help others avoid the consequences of the PIT!

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!


Don Hill who claimed his innocence – Found guilty faces 18 years in Federal Prison! Government Corruption doesn’t pay…

February 28, 2010

Restitution of $112,500 and 18 years in prison.  That’s $6,250 per year.  Was it worth it?  Clearly this is a message and with that length of time in federal prison Hill will clearly get the picture that life inside the hallowed halls of a prison make a lasting impression and are life changing.  Wonder, as he was “wheeling and dealing” if he ever thought that the outcome would be this dramatic?

Former Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill, 57, was sentenced to18 years in federal prison and ordered to pay $112,500 in restitution. He must surrender to the Bureau of Prisons on April 27, 2010, to begin serving his sentence. Hill, who was on the witness stand for nearly six days during the June – October 2009 trial, was convicted on seven of nine counts charged, including one count of conspiracy to commit bribery concerning a local government receiving federal benefits; two counts of bribery concerning a local government receiving federal benefits; one count of conspiracy to commit extortion; one count of extortion by a public official; and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

“The sentences imposed today on Mr. Hill, his wife and his plan commission appointee hopefully will serve as a powerful reminder to all public officials and those who work with them, that seeking to personally profit by abusing the power given them by the voters can and will result in a long prison sentence,” said U.S. Attorney Jacks. “Public corruption is one of the most insidious crimes confronting our communities today. It contributes to the cynicism we are seeing today from the public who feel as though all politicians are corrupt and the government does not serve the needs of those citizens who can’t pay for access to their elected officials.”

Jacks continued, “The investigation into the actions of these defendants was lengthy and complicated. Many questioned why the investigation was taking so long. Hopefully, the verdict and the sentences handed down today and in the future, will serve as proof of the quality of the work done by the FBI, the IRS and the prosecutors assigned to this case. Throughout the investigation, amid all the questions and criticism, they remained focused on their mission, to thoroughly examine the evidence and to present their findings in a court of law before an impartial jury. The jury’s verdict demonstrates that the facts as revealed by their investigation conclusively showed the guilt of the defendants and was not a matter of interpretation or misunderstanding or selective prosecution. When corrupt politicians are exposed and punished, the entire community reaps the benefits.”

Hill’s wife, Sheila D. Farrington, 45, was sentenced to nine years in prison and ordered to surrender to the Bureau of Prisons on the same day as her husband, April 27, 2010. Farrington was convicted at trial on five of six counts charged, including one count of conspiracy to commit bribery concerning a local government receiving federal benefits; one count of aiding and abetting bribery concerning a local government receiving federal benefits; one count of aiding and abetting extortion by public officials; and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

D’Angelo Lee, 43, Hill’s Plan Commission Appointee, was sentenced to 14 years in prison and ordered to pay $112,800 in restitution; he is currently in federal custody. Lee was convicted at trial on all seven of seven counts charged, including one count of conspiracy to commit bribery concerning a local government receiving federal benefits; two counts of bribery concerning a local government receiving federal benefits; one count of conspiracy to commit extortion; one count of extortion by public officials; and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Robert E. Casey, Jr., Special in Charge, Dallas FBI, said, “Communities have a right to expect that their elected leaders are ethical, trustworthy, and responsible, only representing the best interests of their constituents. Two of today’s defendants betrayed the trust bestowed on them as public officials. The sentences imposed reflect the gravity of their crimes. The FBI, its law enforcement partners, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to root out such graft in order to ensure that the citizens of Dallas receive honest representation by their elected officials.”

Two other defendants were convicted at trial, Darren L. Reagan, 50, and Rickey Robertson, 43. Both are scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Lynn on March 1, 2010. Reagan, described as a community activist, and the chairman and CEO of the Black State Employees Association, was convicted on two of four counts charged, including one count of conspiracy to commit extortion and one count of aiding and abetting in extortion by public officials.  Robertson, a local businessman/car dealer was convicted on two of three counts charged, including conspiracy to commit extortion. Robertson was also a principal of RA-MILL.

At that trial, the government presented evidence that beginning in 2004, Hill and his co-defendants entered into an association in which thousands of dollars in bribes were paid by co-defendants Brian L. Potashnik and his wife, Cheryl L. Potashnik, owners of Southwest Housing Development Company, Inc., through sham business contracts to the defendants. The government also presented evidence that Hill and Lee were involved in corrupt solicitation from developers in an effort to gain financial benefit. Brian and Cheryl Potashnik pleaded guilty prior to trial; Brian Potashnik pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery concerning a local government receiving federal benefits and Cheryl Potashnik pleaded guilty to one count of bribery concerning a state government receiving federal benefits. Both are scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Lynn on May 7, 2010.

Other sentencing dates are as follows:

On March 19, 2010, Allen McGill, who pleaded guilty in April 2008 to one count of conspiracy to commit extortion; Andrea Spencer who also pleaded guilty in April 2008 to the same offense; Kevin J. Dean, who pleaded guilty in June 2009 to the same offense; and John J. Lewis, who pleaded guilty in March 2009 to the same offense, are scheduled to be sentenced.

On April 2, 2010, Terri Hodge, who pleaded guilty on February 3, 2010, to fraud and false statements on an income tax return, is scheduled to be sentenced.

On May 7, 2010, Jibreel A. Rashad, a.k.a. Vernon Cooks, Jr., who was convicted on February 10, 2010, following a one-week trial, of conspiracy to commit extortion, is scheduled to be sentenced.

A trial date has not been set for the charges pending against Ronald W. Slovacek. Last week the government filed a motion requesting that some of the counts be dismissed and indicating its intention to proceed to trial on only three counts: one count of conspiracy to commit bribery concerning a local government receiving federal benefits; one count of bribery concerning a local government receiving federal benefits; and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.


Clifford Wayne Robertson – Real Estate Radio Talk Show Host Pleads Guilty to Bank Fraud

January 18, 2010

He was heard on CNN 1190 in the Dallas, TX marketplace.  His topic – real estate investment strategies.  What folks apparently did not hear was “the rest of the story.”  It seems that, now former Dallas radio host, Clifford Wayne Robertson, 43, pleaded guilty to  charges of bank fraud.

The original indictment alleged that Robertson admitted to using the identity of another person to send fraudulent personal financial statements to a lending institution, the U.S. Attorney’s Office alleged. He submitted the statement to obtain money under false pretenses, prosecutors said in a statement.

The loss caused by his actions is estimated to be in the $3 million range.

Robertson was indicted by a federal grand jury on Sept. 10, 2009. He faces a maximum sentence of up to 32 years in prison. A sentencing date is still to be determined.

COMMENTS:  Since there are three components to the commission of a white collar crime like this – NEED, OPPORTUNITY and RATIONALIZATION – the question is, first, what motivated Robertson to commit such a fraud?  And, equally as important, how could he rationalize that statements issued under false pretenses would be O.K.?

I’m interested in your thoughts.

As a business ethics speaker and author, I know what Robertson is facing.  I, too, faced federal prison for crimes committed in the ’80’s.  Speaking from experience, the consequences of fraudulent actions are no fun.  And, the higher your profile the more likely you are to receive a more severe sentence – just ask Bernie Madoff.

If you have insight into what Robertson might have been thinking…feel free to share.


Jimmy Choo shoes and Million Dollar Home – Chad Read and Emily Read now sentenced to Federal Prison!

January 5, 2010

From California to Lubbock, Texas – Chad and Emily Read lived a modest life.  Then Emily began working for Reaction Fitness Clubs (a modest health club chain) – and things changed.

From living with Emily’s mother to owning a series of large homes and a condo in Dallas, the Reads had a dramatic change in lifestyle.  From a $1.2 million home, to expensive cars, to a recreational vehicle, to designer clothes and Jimmy Choo shoes – the Reads enjoyed life in a way few experience.  But where did the money come from?  According to the Reads their new found wealth came from a trust fund her father left to her.  Reality…well there was no trust fund only embezzlement or theft!

Seems that Emily worked as a bookeeper for the fitness clubs referred to as the Reaction Fitness Clubs.  During that time she wrote a large number of checks from the club and either would cash the checks or deposit them into their personal accounts.  Likewise, they used funds from the club accounts to pay for their personal credit cards and purchase other luxury items.

EVERY CHOICE HAS A CONSEQUENCE!

Emily J. Read – now Chad Read’s ex-wife – was sentenced in September 2009 to 41 months in federal prison and ordered to pay more than $670,000 in restitution.

Chad Read was sentenced in December 2009 to 18 months in federal prison and ordered to pay restitution remaining of $15,000.

WHAT HAPPENED?

Obviously, both husband and wife were convicted and sentenced.  But, since Chad received a substantially lower sentence (in terms of time spent in prison), was it possible that he was not fully aware of the crime being committed by his (now) ex-wife?  And, what motivated Emily to change her former lifestyle and enter into an obvious life of crime?  Lastly, how was she so easily able to effect the crime?

There are three components of a white collar crime – NEED – OPPORTUNITY and RATIONALIZATION.  In this case, it is clear that Reaction Fitness Clubs did not have sufficient internal controls opening the door to “opportunity”.  Seems that Read had free reign and, management must have been asleep at the wheel in order for a fraud of this magnitude to have gone undetected for so long.

LESSON

To avoid fraud you either have to have someone so strong in their ethical beliefs or foundation that they won’t cross the line or you have to eliminate one of the three components – and in this case the easiest way to have avoided this disastrous consequence would have been the elimination of opportunity.  Any good CPA or business owner knows that internal controls are there to protect the business assets and preclude the likelihood of succumbing to temptation.

I can’t address the Read’s need or rationalization, but had sufficient controls been put in place, Emily would not have easily had the opportunity to effect her massive life changing fraud.

Your comments are welcome!