Thursday, December 3, 2020

Former Honda employee pleads guilty to defrauding the firm and money laundering charges

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A former Honda employee offered a guilty plea in U.S. District Court Wednesday to wire fraud and money laundering.

Charles Michael Stratton, 62, of Fairborn, allegedly defrauded Honda out of more than $750,000. 

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Benjamin C. Glassman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, and Joseph M. Deters, Federal Bureau of Investigation Cincinnati Division acting special agent in charge, announced the plea offered before U.S. Magistrate Judge Norah McCann King.

From 2008 until March 2015, Stratton served as the facilities manager for Honda of America Manufacturing Inc. in Marysville. In his role, he oversaw various vendor contracts, including those for security services, janitorial services, food service and uniform/laundry on behalf of Honda.

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Acrux Investigation Agency, located in Lakeview, provided physical and personal security services for Honda. Surmount, also located in Lakeview, was a subsidiary of Acrux and provided monitoring services to Honda.

Stratton executed a scheme to defraud Honda using Acrux and Surmount by creating multiple purchase orders for payments in amounts just under $100,000, a threshold in which additional oversight and approval is required.

Using these purchase orders, as well as the main labor contract, Stratton caused Acrux and Surmount to submit false invoices to Honda and instructed them to keep the money in a “future fund.” 

Money allocated to the future fund was then used, in part, to pay Stratton directly or through his organization, Springfield Area Fastball Elites, Inc. SAFE was an Ohio non-profit created by Stratton to support local baseball teams; however, SAFE lost its classification as a 501c3 in 2010.

Stratton also defrauded at least three other Honda vendors through the solicitation of donations for SAFE between 2012 and 2014, when it no longer held its tax-exempt status.

Stratton received multiple donation checks, which he would either deposit in part to the SAFE bank account, while keeping a portion of the donation in cash for himself, or deposit the donation check entirely into his personal account. Only a fraction of the funds received through donations were actually spent in furtherance of SAFE’s mission.

The defendant was indicted by a grand jury in May 2018. Wire fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and money laundering carries a potential maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

As part of his plea, Stratton agrees to pay $750,635.95 in restitution to Honda and $10,000 in restitution to Scioto Industrial Services.

U.S. Attorney Glassman commended the investigation of this case by the FBI, and Assistant United States Attorneys Jessica W. Knight and Peter K. Glenn-Applegate, who are prosecuting the case.

In addition, a civil case has been filed in Union County Common Pleas Court against Stratton, with Acrux seeking restitution. The case was stayed in November 2018 pending the resolution of this federal case.

Former Logan County Chief Deputy Chris Prickett previously owned Acrux and Surmont. This fraud cost him the Honda contracts and his companies before he became a full-time deputy. 

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