In a press release issued on December 23, 2014 by the Department of Justice, Tax Division, it was announced that Wilbur Anthony Huff, a Kentucky businessman, pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court to various tax crimes that caused more than $50 million in losses to the Internal Revenue Service, and a massive fraud that involved the bribery of bank officials, the fraudulent purchase of an insurance company, and the defrauding of insurance regulators.
Huff, 53, of Caneyville and Louisville, Kentucky, pleaded guilty to one count of corruptly endeavoring to obstruct and impede the due administration of the internal revenue laws, which carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison, one count of aiding and assisting with the preparation and presentation of false and fraudulent tax returns, which subjects the offender to a maximum three years in prison, one count of failing and causing the failure to pay taxes to the IRS, which carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison, and one count of conspiracy to (a) commit bank bribery, (b) commit fraud on bank regulators and the board and shareholders of a publicly-traded company, and (c) fraudulently purchase an Oklahoma insurance company, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for April 8, 2015 before Federal District Court Judge Buchwald.
As part of his plea, Huff also agreed to forfeit $10.8 million to the United States and to provide restitution in the following amounts to victims of his crimes: $70,100,000 to the Receiver for Park Avenue Property and Casualty Insurance Company; $4,857,266.62 to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC); $597,420.29 to Valley National Bank (the successor of Park Avenue Bank); and $53,094,219 to the IRS. That’s in excess of $125,000,000 in restitution.
Huff was a businessman who controlled numerous entities located throughout the United States. Huff controlled the companies and their finances, using them to orchestrate a $53 million fraud on the IRS as well as other illegal schemes. However, rather than exercise control of these companies openly, Huff concealed his control by installing other individuals to oversee the companies’ day-to-day functions and to serve as the companies’ titular owners, directors or officers. Huff also maintained a corrupt relationship with Park Avenue Bank and its executives, Charles J. Antonucci Sr., the president and CEO, and Matthew L. Morris, the senior vice president.
From 2008 to 2010, Huff controlled O2HR, a professional employer organization (PEO) located in Tampa, Florida. Like other PEOs, O2HR was paid to manage the payroll, tax, and workers’ compensation insurance obligations of its client companies. However, instead of paying $53 million in taxes that O2HR’s clients owed the IRS, and instead of paying $5 million to Providence Property and Casualty Insurance Company (Providence P&C) – an Oklahoma-based insurance company – for workers’ compensation coverage expenses for O2HR clients, Huff stole the money and diverted millions of dollars from O2HR to fund his investments in unrelated business ventures, and to pay his family members’ personal expenses. The expenses included mortgages on Huff’s homes, rent payments for his children’s apartments, staff and equipment for Huff’s farm, designer clothing, jewelry, and luxury cars.
Conspiracy to Commit Bank Bribery, Defraud Bank Regulators, and Fraudulently Purchase an Oklahoma Insurance Company
From 2007 through 2010, Huff engaged in a massive multi-faceted conspiracy, in which he schemed to (i) bribe executives of Park Avenue Bank, (ii) defraud bank regulators and the board and shareholders of a publicly-traded company and (iii) fraudulently purchase an Oklahoma insurance company. As described in more detail below, Huff paid bribes totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and other items to Morris and Antonucci, in exchange for their favorable treatment at Park Avenue Bank.
As part of the corrupt relationship between Huff and the bank executives, Huff, Morris, Antonucci, and others conspired to defraud various entities and regulators during the relevant time period. Specifically, Huff conspired with Morris and Antonucci to falsely bolster Park Avenue Bank’s capital, by orchestrating a series of fraudulent transactions to make it appear that Park Avenue Bank had received an outside infusion of $6.5 million, and engaged in a series of further fraudulent actions to conceal from bank regulators the true source of the funds.
Huff further conspired with Morris, Antonucci, and others to defraud Oklahoma insurance regulators and others by making material misrepresentations and omissions regarding the source of $37.5 million used to purchase Providence Property and Casualty Insurance Company, an Oklahoma insurance company that provided workers’ compensation insurance for O2HR’s clients, and to whom O2HR owed a significant debt.
Bribery of Park Avenue Bank Executives
The DOJ press release further states that from 2007 to 2009, Huff paid Morris and Antonucci at least $400,000 in exchange for which they: (1) provided Huff with fraudulent letters of credit obligating Park Avenue Bank to pay an investor in one of Huff’s businesses $1.75 million if Huff failed to pay the investor back himself; (2) allowed the Huff-controlled entities to accrue $9 million in overdrafts; (3) facilitated intra-bank transfers in furtherance of Huff’s frauds; and (4) fraudulently caused Park Avenue Bank to issue at least $4.5 million in loans to the Huff-controlled entities.
Other charges were also filed and were part of the guilty plea entered by Huff, including fraud on bank and insurance regulators.
Cases are still pending against other defendants involved in the fraudulent schemes.