Six charged in massive fraud & money laundering scheme
Indianapolis – United States Attorney Josh Minkler announced federal charges against six individuals, including a former regional construction project manager for a bank, the owners of two different construction companies, the owner of an Indianapolis maintenance services company, and the owner of a Plainfield, Indiana, supply company. The six defendants are alleged to have operated a large-scale scheme to defraud and embezzle over $8 million from a Pennsylvania based bank and a Pennsylvania based insurance company. These charges are the product of a two-year investigation led by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, with assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service. Neither the bank nor the insurance company are being named because they are victims in this case.
“This community has a right to hold high expectations of individuals in positions of trust in our financial institutions,” said Minkler. “Those who blatantly commit fraud and abuse their positions will be held accountable in federal court.”
Those charged were: John L. Williams, 49, Zionsville, a former employee of the bank; Ernie Perkins, 36, Zionsville, the owner of Remarkable Creative Enterprises (“RCE”); Robert Finch, 71, Indianapolis, owner of Finch Constructors and Finch Management; Donald Landis, 58, Plainfield, owner of P&L Supply; Walter Watson, 69, Detroit, Michigan, owner of W-3 construction company; and Shalonda Coleman, 42, Indianapolis, a former employee of the insurance company.
According to the indictment, Williams was employed as a construction project manager in the Indianapolis regional office of the bank. His responsibilities included overseeing the bank’s internal real estate projects in Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Kentucky and Indiana, including new bank branch construction and existing bank branch renovation projects. In carrying out the scheme, Williams would contact Perkins, Finch, Watson, and Landis and instruct them to submit fraudulent invoices to the bank for work that was never performed and materials that were never supplied. Williams used his position at the bank and his oversight of the projects in question to approve payment of the fraudulent invoices. Once the bank paid the invoices, Perkins, Finch, Watson, and Landis would kick back a large percentage of the money to CB Consulting, a fictitious business entity controlled by Williams. In many cases, the money passed through multiple bank accounts before reaching the bank account Williams set up for CB Consulting.
Coleman and Perkins are also charged with using the U.S. Mail to defraud a Pennsylvania-based insurance company and steal money. In those instances, Coleman used her position as a claims processor, and her access to the company’s computer systems, to cause the insurance company to mail checks to RCE. Coleman disguised the payments to RCE as payments for work performed for the company’s insurance clients, but no work was ever performed. Instead, Perkins would deposit the checks into RCE accounts and kick back a percentage of the money to Coleman.
All six defendants are charged with conspiring to launder the money stolen from the bank and insurance company, and Williams and Finch are separately charged with engaging in a significant number of financial transactions in excess of $10,000 using the stolen funds. Those transactions included transfers to other bank accounts held by the defendants, construction of a residence in Zionsville, Indiana, more than $100,000 in payments for Williams’ daughter’s wedding, and the purchase of multiple automobiles. Williams and Coleman are also charged with tax evasion and filing false tax returns, respectively, for failing to report their receipt of stolen funds as income on their tax returns.
“The members of this criminal enterprise executed a scheme to steal millions of dollars, for their own personal use, and evade the law,” said Inspector in Charge Patricia Armstrong, of the Detroit Division, U.S. Postal Inspection Service. “The arrest and indictment of these defendants should serve as a warning to others who seek to commit similar crimes. Postal Inspectors, and our federal law enforcement partners, will tirelessly pursue them until they are brought to justice.”
“Those who line their pockets by embezzling and stealing from others or the government should know they will not go undetected and will be held accountable,” said Gabriel Grchan, Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation. “These charges and arrests show that IRS Criminal Investigation is committed to following the money trail to ensure that those who engage in these illegal activities are vigorously investigated and brought to justice. IRS Criminal Investigation stands ready to partner with all law enforcement agencies in Indiana to pursue individuals who steal from others and the government.”
“The FBI is committed to aggressively pursuing fraud committed on individuals, corporations or financial institutions. These charges send a clear message that attempting to hide criminal activity and defraud others comes at a price,” said Grant Mendenhall, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Indianapolis Division. “Through collaborative efforts with our partners we will continue to work diligently to identify and investigate those who perpetuate these crimes and stop this type of corruption.”
According to Assistant United States Attorney Matthew J. Rinka, who is prosecuting this case for the government, each defendant faces a maximum of thirty (30) years imprisonment for their roles in the scheme and up to three (3) years of supervised release following any term of imprisonment.
An indictment is only a charge and not evidence of guilt. All defendants are considered innocent until proven otherwise in federal court.
In October 2017, United States Attorney Josh J. Minkler announced a Strategic Plan designed to shape and strengthen the District’s response to its most significant public safety challenges. This prosecution sentencing demonstrates the office’s firm commitment to partner with federal and local law enforcement agencies to prosecute those individuals who perpetrate large-scale fraud schemes and abuse positions of trust. See United States Attorney’s Office, Southern District of Indiana Strategic Plan.