Five from Indianapolis area sentenced to federal prison in $8.4M fraud scheme

A Zionsville business owner and four others from the Indianapolis area have been sentenced to federal prison for participating in an $8.4 million fraud and money-laundering scheme, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Friday.

Ernie Perkins, 40, of Zionsville—owner of Remarkable Creative Enterprises—was sentenced to 70 months in prison by U.S. District Court Judge Sara Evans Barker on Jan. 5. Barker sentenced the others from Indiana and one other defendant from Detroit late last year.

Investigators said the “massive, years-long fraud conspiracy” resulted in the theft of more than $8.4 million from a Pennsylvania- based bank and a Pennsylvania based insurance company.

Also sentenced:

– John L. Williams, 52, Zionsville, a former employee of the victimized bank, received a nine-year sentence.

– Robert Finch, 73, Indianapolis, owner of Finch Constructors and Finch Management, was sentenced to four years.

– Donald Landis, 59, Plainfield, owner of P&L Supply, received a three-year sentence.

– Shalonda Coleman, 45, Indianapolis, a former employee of the victimized insurance company, was sentenced to two years.

– Walter Watson, 72, Detroit, owner of W-3 construction company, was sentenced to 18 months.

All were convicted of various charges, including theft by a bank employee, money laundering, mail fraud and tax evasion.

Investigators did not identify the victimized bank and insurance company.

The investigation was led by the United States Attorney’s Office and agents of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

According to investigators, Williams was employed as a construction project manager in the bank’s Indianapolis regional office, overseeing branch construction and renovation projects in Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Kentucky and Indiana..

Williams would use bank information to identify construction and renovation projects that were projected to come in under budget, then tell Perkins, Finch, Watson and Landis to submit fraudulent invoices for work that was never performed and materials that were never supplied.

Williams used his position at the bank to approve payment of the fraudulent invoices.

Investigators said Perkins, Finch, Watson, and Landis would kick back a large percentage of the money to CB Consulting, a fake business entity controlled by Williams.

Between November 2009 and August 2016, the defendants submitted hundreds of fraudulent invoices to the bank, totaling more than $8.4 million.

In a separate scheme, Coleman used her position as a claims processor to defraud the insurance company by accessing the firm’s computer system and sending checks disguised work payments to Remarkable Creative Enterprises.

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

Williams, Perkins, Finch, Landis and Watson were all convicted of theft and conspiring to launder the money stolen from the bank.

Williams and Finch were separately convicted of engaging in a significant number of financial transactions in excess of $10,000 using the stolen funds.

The transactions included transfers to Finch’s construction company, funds for construction of a residence for Williams’ family in Zionsville, and more than $100,000 in payments for a wedding for Williams’ daughter and the purchase of multiple automobiles.

Williams and Colman were also convicted of tax evasion and filing false tax returns.

All six defendants were ordered to pay restitution and to a term of federal supervised release after imprisonment.

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