Federal prosecutors have forced a retired Ford manager to hand over nearly $US660,000 he amassed in what they called a kickback scheme with trucking companies that generated millions over several years, a news agency report said.
According to The Associated Press (AP), no criminal charges have been filed against John Perry, former manager of material planning and logistics at Ford’s assembly plant in St. Louis, Missouri, but a civil lawsuit US attorney Steven Biskupic filed this week in Milwaukee federal court says authorities seized about $660,000 Perry had in a brokerage account.
The scheme, AP cited the filing as saying, involved two trucking companies, one of which had ties to a similar multimillion dollar scheme involving Milton Morris, a former transportation director for consumer products giant SC Johnson & Son.
No criminal charges have been filed against Morris, either, AP noted.
The news agency said civil suits like the one against Perry are customary to preserve assets either in conjunction with a criminal case or before such a case is filed. Assistant US attorney Scott Campbell would not tell the Associated Press whether authorities are pursuing criminal charges against Perry but said the filings also notify victims who lost money in such schemes.
“We intend to forfeit this money and make it available to the victims of the fraud scheme,” he reportedly said.
Ford spokeswoman Marcey told AP the automaker was looking into the matter and could not yet comment.
According to AP, the court documents say Perry retired from Ford in 2004. The news agency could not reach him for comment.
The civil suit was filed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, because some of the payments made to Morris were in nearby Racine, the filings said, according to the report.
The documents show the Perry and Morris cases are linked through kickbacks received from Edwardsville, Ill.-based trucking company Buske Lines and its president and chief executive, Tom Buske. AP noted that Buske also has not been charged, and did not immediately return messages it left for him seeking comment.
Perry and Morris knowingly approved false and inflated transportation invoices that Buske submitted, and they also steered contracts to Buske, the documents said, according to AP.
AP said the documents said Buske conspired with Perry and, as in another scheme involving Morris, Buske sent Perry inflated invoices for transportation contracts and storage sites with Ford and gave him kickbacks. In all, $2.4m was transferred from Buske’s bank account to Perry’s between 2001 and 2004, the filings reportedly said.
Buske even paid about $131,000 to build an addition to the Perrys’ home in Lake St. Louis, Missouri, and $350,000 toward their purchase of a home in Breckenridge, Colorado, Perry’s ex-wife, Tamara Perry, was reported to have told investigators.
Citing the filings, the Associated Press said Perry also conspired with St. Louis-based Syms Trucking to steer contracts, and from 2001 to 2003, Syms paid $720,000 to a fake company controlled by Perry. AP was unable to find a telephone listing for a trucking business named Syms in the St. Louis area.
AP said government investigators believe that in all, Perry transferred $680,000 in money connected to the schemes into his brokerage account, which was seized in late January and is now in the custody of the Internal Revenue Service (the US tax office).
Perry’s $1,769 monthly pension cheques from Ford could not have funded the transfers he made to the account, investigators reportedly wrote.
The news agency said authorities learned of the scheme from Racine-based SC Johnson in October 2004 after the company told investigators it was overpaying trucking carriers by as much as $1m a month when the scheme was discovered. Morris reportedly was fired shortly afterward.
SC Johnson sued Morris, Buske and his companies, and others, in a case that is set to go to a jury trial next January, AP added.