- A U.S. District judge on Tuesday sentenced a California man to six years in federal prison for his role in a scheme to embezzle more than $3 million from general contractor The Beck Group while it performed work at a Le Meridien hotel project in downtown Houston from 2016 to 2017.
- Charles Williams, who pleaded guilty to money laundering and wire fraud in September, was one of six individuals who set up shell companies to submit fake construction services and materials invoices to a Beck Group construction manager, Moses Said, for payment. Said, who approved the fraudulent invoices and forwarded them on to Beck for processing, pleaded guilty in May 2018. Williams and Said received a share of the proceeds from others involved in the scheme.
- Williams is currently out on bond and will surrender to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons in the near future. Williams has also been sentenced to three years of supervised release after he is released from prison and must pay Beck more than $3 million in restitution.
This type of fraud is not easy to uncover, particularly when the offenders have the help of someone in a position of authority at the targeted company who can help them navigate invoicing and other processes.
Late last year, the Manhattan District Attorney's office charged former Turner Construction and Bloomberg executives with various fraud-related offenses in connection with the renovation of Bloomberg's New York City offices. Prosecutors allege that those individuals, with the assistance of subcontractors and vendors, tried to steal $15 million from the financial media company through fake invoices and work orders, inflated bids and misappropriated subcontractor allowances built into the budget but left unused. This took place in spite of extensive controls and codes of behavior that both companies had in place.
To head off these types of situations, some owners hire an integrity monitor to serve as an extra set of eyes on a project and to perform spot checks on the processes in place. Integrity monitors are used more on publicly funded projects when the general contractor or a subcontractor on the job has had previous issues with fraudulent or unethical behavior, but private owners are also taking advantage of this type of service to deter companies and individuals who might be tempted to commit fraud. Monitors also have enough industry experience to point out potential holes in a company's procedures and are in a position to suggest improvements.