Inside INdiana Business

Hoosiers sentenced in contracting fraud scheme

(WISH Photo, File)

INDIANAPOLIS (Inside INdiana Business) — Five Indiana residents and a Michigan man have been sentenced in what authorities call a massive contracting fraud and money laundering scheme. Acting U.S. Attorney John Childress says the years-long conspiracy resulted in more than $8.4 million being stolen.

Childress says John Williams of Zionsville, Ernie Perkins of Zionsville, Donald Landis of Plainfield, Walter Watson of Detroit, Robert Finch of Indianapolis and Shalonda Coleman of Indianapolis, were all charged in the scheme to defraud a Pennsylvania based bank and insurance company. 

The U.S. Attorney’s office, Postal Inspection Service agents, IRS Criminal Investigators and the FBI conducted the investigation that resulted in charges of theft by a bank employee, money laundering, mail fraud and tax evasion. Investigators have not named the bank or insurance company since they are victims in the case.

Investigators say Williams served as a construction project manager at an Indianapolis office of the victim bank and would use bank information to find construction and renovation projects that were under budget, before contacting Finch, Landis, Watson and Perkins instructing them to file fake invoices on the under-budget projects. 

Childress says Williams would then use his position overseeing the projects to approve the fake invoices, and once the bank paid the invoices, Perkins, Finch, Watson and Landis would kick back a percentage of the money to a fake business entity controlled by Williams. Investigators say the money often passed through several bank accounts before reaching Wiliams’ fake business account. Childress says the defendants were responsible for submitting hundreds of fake invoices to the bank from November 2009 to August 2016. 

“White collar criminals are thieves who steal through position and influence,” said Childress. “White collar crime like tax evasion and money laundering ultimately effects all Hoosiers and this office is committed to aggressively prosecuting these fraudsters.”

Investigators say Perkins owns Remarkable Creative Enterprises, and that he and Coleman are also charged with using the U.S. Mail in a separate scheme to defraud a Pennsylvania-based insurance company. Investigators say Coleman used her job as a claims processor to cause the insurance company to mail checks to Perkins’ company. Childress says Coleman disguised the payments to RCE as for work performed for the company’s insurance clients, but no work was ever done. Perkins would then deposit the checks into RCE accounts and kick back a percentage to Coleman.

Williams, Perkins, Finch, Landis and Watson were all convicted of theft and conspiring to launder money stolen from the bank. Williams and Finch also were separately convicted of making several transactions in excess of $10,000 using the stolen money. The transactions included transfers to other accounts held by the defendants, including bank accounts from Finch’s construction company, construction of a home for Williams’ family in Zionsville, more than $100,000 in payments for a wedding for Williams’ daughter and for several vehicle purchases. Williams and Coleman also were convicted of tax evasion and filing fake tax returns.

“Even if you use sophisticated means to steal millions of dollars, you are still a thief, and this sentence sends a clear message of the consequences of such greed,” said FBI Indianapolis Special Agent in Charge Paul Keenan. “The FBI will continue to work with the IRS and other law enforcement partners to focus our efforts on these white collar criminals and ensure they are brought to justice.”

Williams was officially sentenced to nine years in prison, Perkins for over five years, Finch for four years, Landis for three years, Coleman two years and Watson for 18 months. U.S. Attorney Matthew Rinka says all the defendants were also ordered to pay millions in restitution and all six were ordered to serve federal supervised release after their prison terms. 

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