Business Owners Sentenced In Federal Court For Roles In Automotive Battery Theft Ring
Tampa, FL - U.S. District Judge James S. Moody, Jr., sentenced Riverview residents Christian Lee Hancock (36) and Tina Inez Schneider (37) yesterday to federal prison terms for federal crimes relating to their battery recycling business and scrap yard. Hancock was sentenced to 57 months in federal prison for conspiring to commit wire fraud and structuring financial transactions to evade federal currency transaction reporting requirements; conspiring to commit money laundering; and substantive wire fraud, money laundering, and structuring charges. Schneider was sentenced to 13 months in federal prison for structuring financial transactions. The court also ordered Hancock to forfeit approximately $1.1 million, which are proceeds traceable to the offense. As part of his sentence, the court also entered a money judgment in excess of $1 million.
According to testimony and evidence presented at trial, Hancock and Schneider were the owners and operators of Gator Core Inc., a secondary metal recycling company in Riverview. Hancock was the President of Gator Core, Inc., and Schneider was the Vice President. Over a three-year period between 2006 and 2009, Hancock and Schneider conspired with others to steal hundreds of tractor-trailer loads of used automotive batteries that were destined for Envirofocus Technologies, a lead smelter in the Tampa area, and Johnson Controls, Inc. Co-conspirators, some of whom previously pled guilty for their roles in the conspiracy, falsified documents and records in order to conceal the thefts of more than 8 million pounds of batteries from Envirofocus. Hancock and Schneider then re-sold the batteries through Gator Core for a substantial profit, and conducted financial transactions with the profits in violation of federal money laundering and structuring laws. The conspiracy resulted in a loss to Envirofocus and Johnson Controls of more than $3.3 million.
This case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, and the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office's, District IV office. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Josephine W. Thomas and Matthew P. Jackson.