FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT
AUSA VICKIE E. LEDUC or
MARCIA MURPHY at 410-209-4885
AUGUST 31, 2007
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
YEARBOOK SALESMAN PLEADS GUILTY IN $400,000 FRAUD SCHEME
Misrepresented Cost of Yearbooks Sold to U.S. Naval Academy,
George Washington University, Howard University and Others
BALTIMORE, Maryland - Joseph M. Wenzl, age 40, of Crownsville, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to mail fraud in connection with the purchase of school yearbooks by Maryland and Washington D.C. high schools and colleges, United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein announced.
According to the plea agreement, Wenzl was the regional sales representative for a school yearbook publisher in an area that covered most of Maryland and the District of Columbia. From October 1998 through January 2003, Wenzl induced the publishing company to agree to highly discounted contract prices for the production of yearbooks by citing, among other reasons, competitive market pressure from other yearbook publishers. At the same time, Wenzl would negotiate a different and higher price with the school. Wenzl would send an invoice to the school customer and direct the school to send its payments to him. As a consequence, the school was not aware of the publisher’s discounted price and the publisher was not aware that Wenzl had negotiated a higher price with the school. Wenzl would then pay off the publisher and keep the difference.
For example, the Midshipmen Welfare Fund sent a deposit to the publisher for the publication of the 2001 edition of the Lucky Bag, the U.S. Naval Academy yearbook. Wenzl convinced the publisher to discount the final invoice to $173,000. The publisher thought it forwarded that discounted invoice to the Naval Academy, but the invoice was addressed to Wenzl’s post office box in Towson, so Navy personnel operating the Midshipmen Welfare Fund never saw the discounted invoice. Instead, Wenzl issued a final invoice that reflected a total price of $267,963, with $62,093 due on 2001 yearbook. On October 15, 2001, the Midshipmen Welfare Fund sent a $62,093 check, payable to the publisher, to Wenzl’s office. Wenzl deposited the check in a bank account he controlled.
Wenzl repeated this scheme with other schools, including George Washington University, Howard University, Edmund Burke School in Washington, D.C. and Fairmount Heights High School located in Prince George’s County, Maryland, resulting in a loss of more than $400,000.
Wenzl faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison followed by three years of supervised release. Judge William D. Quarles, Jr. has scheduled sentencing for January 4, 2008 at 9:30 a.m.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the U.S. Postal Inspection Service for its investigative work. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stephen Schenning and John Sippel, who are prosecuting the case.