Three area business owners, former bank employee charged in $8M fraud schemes

Five central Indiana residents—including the owners of three local companies—have been charged along with a Detroit man with embezzling more than $8 million from a bank and an insurance company, in part to pay for a home, a wedding, cars and more.

U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler announced the federal charges Monday afternoon after a two-year investigation led by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service with assistance from the FBI and Internal Revenue Service.

All six are charged with conspiring to launder money stolen from the bank and insurance company:

  • John L. Williams, 49, Zionsville, a former employee of the bank, which federal authorities are not naming because it is considered a victim.
  • Ernie Perkins, 36, Zionsville, the owner of Remarkable Creative Enterprises, or RCE, which describes itself as a facilities management and cleaning company.
  • Robert Finch, 71, Indianapolis, owner of Finch Management and Finch Constructors, which provides licensed general contracting and mechanical services.
  • Donald Landis, 58, Plainfield, owner of P&L Supply, a provider of commercial and industrial maintenance supplies.
  • Shalonda Coleman, 42, Indianapolis, a former employee of the insurance company, which is also unnamed.
  • Walter Watson, 69, Detroit, owner of W-3 construction company.

Coleman and Perkins are also charged with using the U.S. Mail to defraud the insurance company and steal money. 

Williams and Coleman are additionally 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.

And Williams and Finch face additional charges for “engaging in a significant number of financial transactions in excess of $10,000 using the stolen funds,” the prosecutor’s office said.

Those transactions included transfers to other bank accounts held by the defendants, construction of a residence in Zionsville, more than $100,000 in payments for Williams’ daughter’s wedding, and the purchase of multiple automobiles, Minkler’s office said.

“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.”

Federal authorities said Williams was a construction project manager in the Indianapolis regional office of the bank, where he oversaw its internal real estate projects in five area states. That included new bank branch construction and existing branch renovations.

Williams would allegedly 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 to approve payment.

Then Perkins, Finch, Watson and Landis would allegedly 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 account Williams set up for CB Consulting, the prosecutor’s office said.

In the insurance scheme, the prosecutor’s office said, Coleman used her position as a claims processor and her access to the company’s computer systems to mail checks—disguised as payments for work performed for the insurance company’s clients—to RCE.

Perkins would allegedly deposit the checks into RCE accounts and kick back a percentage of the money to Coleman.

 “The members of this criminal enterprise executed a scheme to steal millions of dollars, for their own personal use, and evade the law,” said Patricia Armstrong, inspector in charge in the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Detroit division, in a statement.

“The arrest and indictment of these defendants should serve as a warning to others who seek to commit similar crimes,” she said. “Postal Inspectors, and our federal law enforcement partners, will tirelessly pursue them until they are brought to justice.”

According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew J. Rinka, who is prosecuting this case for the government, each defendant faces a maximum of 30 years in prison and up to three years of supervised release.

A message left for Perkins on his voicemail at CRE was not immediately returned, nor was a message left for Finch at Finch Constructors. Emails to both men were not immediately returned.

P&L’s business number is no longer in service and an email sent to the company was returned as undeliverable. Watson did not return messages left at his company and sent to his email.

Williams and Coleman could not be immediately reached for comment.

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