News and Press Releases

THREE DEFENDANTS CHARGED IN FEDERAL SUPERSEDING INDICTMENT ALLEGING FEMA FRAUD FOLLOWING HURRICANE WILMA

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 21, 2011

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, David Nieland, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General, Miami Field Office (DHS-OIG), Jose A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID), Miami Field Office, Pam Bondi, Florida Attorney General, Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution, and Susan Benton, Sheriff, Highlands County Sheriff’s Office, announce a four-count superseding indictment charging defendants Christopher Andrew Hale, 46, of Tallahassee, Jeffrey Wayne Aunspaugh, 42, of Port St. Lucie, and Angela Bryant Aunspaugh, 42, of Port St. Lucie, with conspiracies to commit mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1341, 1346 and 1349, and conspiracy to commit money laundering, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1956(h). In addition, defendants Jeffrey Wayne Aunspaugh and Angela Bryant Aunspaugh were charged with conspiracy to structure financial transactions and structuring financial transactions, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371, and Title 31 United States Code, Section 5323(a)(3).

The defendants are scheduled to make their initial appearances in federal court in Ft. Pierce on October 24, 2011 (Hale) and October 26, 2011 (Aunspaughs). If convicted, the defendants each face a possible statutory maximum penalty of 30 years in prison.

The superseding indictment alleges that the defendants engaged in a scheme to enrich themselves through the solicitation and payment of kickbacks in exchange for business opportunities connected with repair projects after Hurricane Wilma. More specifically, the indictment alleges that the Aunspaughs, who owned and operated Ener-Phase Electric, made kickback payments to Hale, the former general manager of Glades Utilities Services, Inc.(GUS), in return for favorable official action on contracts between Ener-Phase Electric and GUS.

According to the superseding indictment, as general manager of GUS, Hale was responsible for hiring subcontractors and approving the invoices submitted to GUS for payment by the subcontractors. From September 2005 through November 2006, the Aunspaughs allegedly paid Hale more than $200,000.00 in kickbacks, including payments based on fabricated invoices submitted to GUS from the Aunspaughs’ company. These kickbacks are alleged to have involved benefits dispersed by FEMA in the wake of Hurricane Wilma.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the DHS-OIG, the IRS-CID, the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office, and the Office of Statewide Prosecution. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Russell R. Killinger.

Anyone with information concerning fraud in relation to assistance provided to disaster victims is urged to call 1-800-323-8603 or email stopfemafraud@dhs.gov.

Attachments:
Superseding Indictment (PDF)

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A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

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