Trio, including St. Johns County man, sentenced for roles in conspiracy

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Source: Three people, including a local man, have been sentenced for their roles in a multimillion-dollar conspiracy, according to the U.S. Atto...

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Three people, including a local man, have been sentenced for their roles in a multimillion-dollar conspiracy, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida.Justin Pennington, 30, of St. Johns County, was sentenced to five years and five months in federal prison and ordered to pay $4,075,000 in restitution, officials with the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. Marcelene Keesbury, 54, and Charles French, 50 — both of Fort Wayne, Indiana — were sentenced to three years and five months’ imprisonment and were also ordered to pay $4,075,000 in restitution.While Pennington was employed as an information technology director at The Wholesale House, an Ohio-based company with offices in Jacksonville, he and his co-conspirators created a fraudulent company, 3 Kings LLC, according to evidence presented at trial.Officials said 3 Kings was incorporated in Delaware in an attempt to conceal the identity of the owners, who purchased products from The Wholesale House at or near cost and then resold those products to consumers and retailers.Unbeknownst to the owners of The Wholesale House, 3 Kings illegally competed with The Wholesale House’s customers and thereby caused significant financial difficulties for the company’s legitimate customers, officials said. In all, 3 Kings purchased nearly $40 million of products from The Wholesale House and never paid the entirety of its bills owed to them.Officials said Pennington and his co-conspirators spent tens of thousands of dollars themselves, with Pennington incurring credit card balances of up to $100,000 per month, while owing his employer millions of dollars.Pennington’s co-conspirators testified during the trial that he was the mastermind of the scheme, created detailed proposals, named the corporation, incorporated the company and controlled the corporation’s bank accounts, officials said. The Wholesale House owners testified that they had personally infused more than $7 million into the company to ensure its survival and to protect the jobs of the company’s more than 60 employees.”The subjects in this case developed a sophisticated scheme to deceive a local business owner using a competing business,” said Charles P. Spencer, special agent in charge of the FBI Jacksonville division. “Incidents of fraud, like this, are not victimless crimes. The FBI is dedicated to working closely with government and private entities to track down and stop scams in an effort to protect the business community.”Officials said a federal jury found Pennington guilty in April. Keesbury and French pleaded guilty in October 2016.
Source: News 4 Jax

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