California Internet Sales Company President Sentenced to Prison for Embezzlement and False Tax Returns

Monday, September 11, 2017

A Manhattan Beach, California resident was sentenced to nine months in prison for wire fraud and filing false tax returns, announced Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and Acting U.S. Attorney Alana W. Robinson for the Southern District of California.

According to the evidence presented at trial, James Miller, a California attorney, was the president and managing partner of MWRC Internet Sales LLC, an online sales company. As part of his duties, Miller had check signing authority for the company’s business bank account. From January 2009 through October 2012, Miller wrote unauthorized checks to himself from MWRC’s account, embezzling more than $300,000. Miller used this money to pay for personal expenses and did not report it on his individual tax returns for 2009 through 2012, causing a tax loss of approximately $58,000.

In addition to the term of prison imposed, U.S. District Judge George Wu ordered Miller to serve two years of supervised release and to pay $64,329 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Goldberg and Acting U.S. Attorney Robinson commended special agents of FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation, who conducted the investigation, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Rebecca Kanter and Trial Attorney Benjamin Weir of the Tax Division, who prosecuted the case.

Additional information about the Tax Division’s enforcement efforts can be found on the division’s website.

Richmond Man Sentenced to 33 Months for Embezzlement

July 31, 2017

LEXINGTON, Ky. – A Richmond, Ky., man, who previously admitted to embezzling money from several related commercial real estate companies in Lexington, has been sentenced to 33 months in federal prison.

Today, U.S. District Court Judge Joseph M. Hood sentenced 65-year-old Robert K. Chaffins for four counts of mail fraud. Chaffins was Vice President of the Asset Management Division of a conglomerate of related entities, namely Lex/108, LLC, Leestown Distribution, LLC, Melbourne Distribution Center, LLC, and 801 Realty, LLC. In this role, Chaffins was responsible for collecting various payments from tenants renting business space from these entities. Knowing some of the fees provided for in the leases were not being collected, he set up bank accounts in the name of these entities, billed the tenants for particular fees through the U.S. Mail, and deposited payments into the bank accounts for his personal use.

In total, from February of 2007 until January 28, 2016, Chaffins deposited $1,064,522.36 in checks intended for Lex/108, LLC, Leestown Distribution, LLC, Melbourne Distribution Center, LLC, and 801 Realty, LLC, into bank accounts he controlled. He used this money to make payments on a second home, a Mercedes Benz, investment and retirement accounts, and dozens of other personal expenses.

Chaffins pleaded guilty to the mail fraud charges in March 2017. Under federal law, he must serve 85% of his prison sentence and will be under the supervision of the United States Probation Office for three years following his term of incarceration.

Carlton S. Shier, IV, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky; Jon Oldham, Resident Agent in Charge, United States Secret Service, Lexington Resident Office; and Chief Mark Barnard, Lexington Police Department, jointly announced the sentence.

The United States Secret Service and the Lexington Police Department conducted the investigation and Assistant United States Attorney Kathryn Anderson represented the United States.

Bookkeeper Sent to Prison for Embezzling over $400,000 in Just Over a Year

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

GREAT FALLS – The United States Attorney’s Office announced that Natalee Christine Crumley was sentenced to 38 months in prison, $425,939.80 in restitution, $427,816.17 in forfeiture, and a $100 special assessment.  The sentencing occurred on July 25, 2017, before U.S. District Judge Brian Morris, in Great Falls, Montana.

Crumley worked as a bookkeeper at Junkermier, Clark, Campanella, Stevens P.C. (JCCS), which is a firm providing Certified Public Accountant and business advisory services throughout Montana.  Crumley’s job duties included providing bookkeeping services for Anderson Glass Doors and Windows (“Anderson Glass”) and Doors & Hardware Unlimited, Inc. (Doors & Hardware).

In just over a year, Crumley forged over 100 checks and embezzled $425,939.80 from Anderson Glass and Doors & Hardware.  After embezzling the money, Crumley withdrew over $140,000 in cash, purchased NCAA Final Four Tickets, furniture, clothes, and took trips to Miami, Long Beach, Houston, and Spokane.  Crumley also spent significant sums of money at Victoria’s Secret and even rented a Ferrari while on vacation.

In a sentencing memo filed in federal court, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan G. Weldon stated, “Ms. Crumley held a position of trust because she was supposed to know right from wrong.”  This is why the victims of the crime explained, “In today’s world, stealing has become all too common.  Why work when you can just take what you want and hope the punishment will be little more than a slap on the hand.”

As a result, Judge Morris sentenced Crumley to 38 months in prison, $425,939.80 in restitution, and $427,816.17 in forfeiture.  All total, Crumley must now pay the victims and the United States $853,755.97. Because there is no parole in the federal system, the truth in sentencing guidelines mandate that Crumley will likely serve all of the time imposed by the court.  In the federal system, Crumley does have the opportunity to shorten the term of custody by earning credit for good behavior.  However, this reduction will not exceed 15% of the overall sentence.

The Crumley case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation Division, and the Great Falls Police Department. 

Guardianship Firm and its Principals Charged with Federal Conspiracy, Fraud, Theft and Money Laundering Offenses

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Twenty-Eight Count Indictment Alleges that Co-Founders of Ayudando Guardians, Inc., Embezzled Millions from Client Accounts to Support Lavish Lifestyles

U.S. Marshals Service Assumes Control of Ayudando Guardians, Inc.,

to Ensure Continuity of Services for Special Needs Clients

ALBUQUERQUE – Federal law enforcement officials today announced the filing of conspiracy, fraud, theft and money laundering charges against Ayudando Alpha, Inc., d/b/a “Ayudando Guardians, Inc.” (Ayudando), and its co-founders, Susan Harris, 70, and Sharon Moore, 62, both residents of Albuquerque, N.M. The charges, which are contained in a 28-count indictment, arise out of an alleged decade-long sophisticated scheme to embezzle funds from client trust accounts managed by Ayudando, a non-profit corporation that provides guardianship, conservatorship and financial management services to hundreds of individuals with special needs.

According to the indictment, Ayudando – which means “helping” in Spanish – receives government benefit payments from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) on behalf of many of its clients, and acts as a fiduciary or representative payee for these clients by paying their expenses and maintaining the balances for the benefit of the clients. The indictment alleges that Harris and Moore, the primary owners and operators of Ayudando, have embezzled millions of dollars from their special needs clients to support lavish lifestyles for themselves and their families.

The charges against Ayudando, Harris and Moore are the result of an ongoing multi-agency investigation by the FBI, IRS Criminal Investigation, U.S. Marshals Service (USMS), VA Office of Inspector General and SSA Office of Inspector General. This morning federal law enforcement agents arrested Harris and Moore. Harris and Moore made their initial appearances in federal court in Albuquerque this morning. They are scheduled to return to court at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow, July 20, 2017, to be arraigned on the indictment and for detention hearings.

Federal authorities also enforced a federal court order that authorized the USMS’s Complex Assets Unit to assume control of Ayudando’s business operations. The court order appoints the USMS as the Receiver and Monitor of Ayudando, including all its financial accounts. The order authorizes the USMS to operate the business to ensure that its assets are not improperly spent or removed, and that the interests of Ayudando clients are protected as the prosecution of the criminal case goes forward. The USMS’s operation of Ayudando will ensure continuity of services for Ayudando clients.

The charges against Ayudando, Harris and Moore were announced by Acting U.S. Attorney James D. Tierney, U.S. Marshal Conrad E. Candelaria, Special Agent in Charge Terry Wade of the Albuquerque Division of the FBI, Special Agent in Charge Ismael Nevarez Jr., of the Phoenix Field Office of IRS Criminal Investigation, Special Agent in Charge Carl D. Scott of the Criminal Investigations Division of the VA’s Office of Inspector General, and Special Agent in Charge Robert Feldt of the Dallas Field Division of the SSA’s Office of the Inspector General.

In making the announcement, Acting U.S. Attorney James D. Tierney said, “This case is all about the victims. The victims in this case relied upon Ayudando to manage their finances and meet their needs. If the allegations in the indictment are true, the principals of Ayudando cruelly violated the trust of their clients and looted their benefits. Federal law enforcement has now stepped in to ensure that the looting stops. The U.S. Attorney’s Office and its partners will conduct this prosecution in a manner that provides for the continued receipt of benefits by Ayudando’s clients, while holding the principals of the company accountable for their conduct.”

“This morning the U.S. Marshals Service assumed control of Ayudando’s business operations to ensure that the victims of the crimes charged in the indictment, which include our disabled veterans, and other Ayudando clients will continue to receive the services they deserve and are entitled to,” said U.S. Marshal Conrad E. Candelaria. “The U.S. Marshals Service also will continue to assist its law enforcement partners in the continuing investigation.”

“Many of our most vulnerable Americans, such as those with special needs, trust fiduciaries to handle their government benefits for them. Unfortunately, there are plenty of criminals willing to steal what could be a person’s only source of income, using the money to support a lavish lifestyle,” said Special Agent in Charge Terry Wade of the FBI’s Albuquerque Division. “The FBI, working with our law enforcement and government partners, is committed to bringing to justice those individuals whose greed destroys the lives and dreams of innocent people.”

“The indictment alleges that, instead of helping people with special needs, the defendants were greedy and helped themselves to their clients’ money,” said Special Agent in Charge Ismael Nevarez Jr., of the Phoenix Field Office of IRS Criminal Investigation. “IRS Criminal Investigation will always investigate individuals who misuse non-profit businesses and cause harm to those whose needs are supposed to be served by those businesses.”

“Professional fiduciaries who defraud vulnerable veterans are reprehensible,” said Special Agent in Charge Carl D. Scott of the Criminal Investigations Division of the VA Office of Inspector General. “The VA OIG will continue to work with other law enforcement agencies to expose those who harm veterans or exploit VA benefits systems and bring them to justice.”

“The SSA OIG is committed to investigating cases of suspected representative payee fraud, which can involve the theft of government funds and harm some of our most vulnerable citizens,” said Special Agent in Charge Robert Feldt of the Dallas Field Division of the SSA Office of the Inspector General. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners and the U.S. Attorney’s Office on this case.”

The 28-count indictment, which was filed under seal on July 11, 2017 and was unsealed and publicly posted earlier today, includes two conspiracy counts, ten counts of mail fraud, nine counts of aggravated identify theft and six counts of money laundering. According to the indictment, from Nov. 2006, when Harris and Moore founded Ayudando, and continuing until July 2017, Ayudando, Harris and Moore embezzled millions of dollars from Ayudando client accounts to cover their personal expenses and support lavish lifestyles for themselves and their families. The indictment alleges that Harris and Moore perpetuated the embezzlement scheme by:

  • Establishing Ayudando as a non-profit corporation in Nov. 2006, to position it as a guardian, conservator, fiduciary and representative payee for individuals needing assistance with their financial affairs;
  • Setting up client trust and company bank accounts which only they controlled;
  • Transferring funds from client accounts to Ayudando company accounts;
  • Using client funds to pay off more than $4 million in charges on a company credit card account used by Harris, Moore and their families for personal purposes;
  • Writing checks from Ayudando company accounts to themselves, cash and to cover personal expenses;
  • Replenishing depleted client accounts with funds taken from other clients;
  • Mailing fraudulent statements and certifications to the VA; and
  • Forging and submitting forged bank statements to the VA.

The indictment identifies some of the ways in which Harris and Moore used the money they allegedly stole from Ayudando clients. For example, the indictment alleges that between June 2011 and March 2014, Harris wrote 12 checks in the total amount of $457,883 on the Ayudando client reimbursement account for personal purpose, including a $50,950 check made out to Mercedes Benz of Albuquerque and a $26,444 check made out to Myers RV Center. It also alleges that between Jan. 2013 and Feb. 2017, Harris used an Ayudando company credit card to pay $140,790 to cover luxury vacations for herself and others, including cruises in the Caribbean isles and a “Final Four” basketball junket, while knowing that Moore would pay off the charges using client funds.

The mail fraud charges in the indictment describe some of the fraudulent documents allegedly mailed by Ayudando, Harris and Moore to the VA to perpetuate and conceal their embezzlement scheme. For example, between Jan. 2016 and Nov. 2016, Moore allegedly mailed fraudulent documents to the VA that falsely represented the balances in ten client accounts. According to the indictment, the documents falsely claimed that the ten client accounts had an aggregate balance of $1,906,908, when the actual value of the ten accounts was only $72,281. The ten client accounts identified in the indictment are examples of the fraud allegedly perpetrated by the defendants as part of their embezzlement scheme.

According to the indictment, Ayudando, Harris and Moore also engaged in aggravated identify theft by using their clients’ names, dates of birth, Social Security Numbers and VA file numbers to commit mail fraud offenses. Harris and Moore also allegedly committed money-laundering offenses by using $392,623 from the Ayudando client reimbursement account to pay off balances on a company credit card used by the defendants and their families for personal purposes. The indictment includes forfeiture provisions that seek forfeiture to the United States of any proceeds and property involved in, or derived from, the defendants’ unlawful conduct.

If the defendants are convicted on the crimes charged in the indictment, they face the following maximum statutory penalties:

  • Count 1, conspiracy – 30 years of imprisonment and a $250,000 fine;
  • Counts 2-11, mail fraud – 30 years of imprisonment and a $250,000 fine;
  • Counts 12-21, aggravated identity theft – a mandatory two-years of imprisonment that must be served consecutive to any other sentence imposed on other counts and a $250,000 fine;
  • Counts 22-27, money laundering – ten years of imprisonment and a $250,000 fine or twice the amount of the property involved in the crime; and
  • Count 28, conspiracy to commit money laundering – ten years of imprisonment and a $250,000 fine or twice the amount of the property involved in the crime.

The Albuquerque offices of the FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation conducted the investigation, which resulted in the charges in the indictment, and are leading the continuing investigation. The Complex Assets Unit and the Albuquerque office of the USMS, the Criminal Investigations Division of the VA Office of Inspector General, and the Dallas Field Division of the SSA Office of Inspector General are assisting in the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeremy Peña and Brandon L. Fyffe are prosecuting the case.

Ayudando clients or family members of Ayudando clients who need to speak with someone about their accounts or expenses should call Ayudando, which is now being operated by the U.S. Marshals Service, at 505-332-4357.

Starting tomorrow, information about the federal investigation into Ayudando, including the indictment and the federal court order, will be available at www.justice.gov/usao-nm/ayudando-guardians. Also starting tomorrow, Ayudando clients can direct their comments or concerns to the U.S. Attorney’s Office at USANM.Ayudando@usdoj.gov(link sends e-mail) or 505-346-6902.

Charges in indictment are merely allegations and defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

 

Ayudando Indictment