OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY
WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
MATT J. WHITWORTH
Contact Don Ledford, Public Affairs ● (816) 426-4220 ● 400 East Ninth Street, Room 5510 ● Kansas City, MO 64106
APRIL 9, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SOUTH CAROLINA MAN INDICTED IN
$4 MILLION FRAUD SCHEME
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Matt J. Whitworth, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that a South Carolina man has been indicted by a federal grand jury for his role in a nearly $4 million fraud scheme.
Christopher Levato, 46, of Simpsonville, S.C., was charged in a two-count indictment returned under seal on Thursday, April 2, 2009, by a federal grand jury in Springfield. The indictment was unsealed and made public today. Levato’s businesses – Southern Logistics and Distribution, Inc., Levato Properties, LLC, and Quality Logistics, Inc., were also charged in the federal indictment.
The indictment charges Levato and his businesses with participating in conspiracies to commit mail fraud and money laundering from September 24, 2001, to May 26, 2006. Levato, along with an unnamed, unindicted co-conspirator who lives in Springfield, Mo., allegedly utilized a fraudulent invoicing scheme to defraud Yakima Products, Inc., of $3,992,935.
Yakima operates a luggage/bicycle rack manufacturing and distribution facility in Beaverton, Ore. During the time of the alleged conspiracies, Yakima also operated a water craft (canoes, kayaks, etc.) manufacturing and distribution facility under the name Watermark Paddlesports, Inc. Watermark changed its name to Yakima in May 2005. Levato’s business, Quality Logistics, was a trucking/transportation company that hauled freight for Yakima and other companies. Southern Logistics was a warehousing company and did not haul any freight.
Cooper Enterprises Scheme
According to the indictment, a contract employee of Yakima who worked from his Springfield residence – identified in the indictment only as “Mr. A” – submitted fraudulent invoices to Yakima in the name of Cooper Enterprises, a fictitious company. “Mr. A” allegedly falsified freight invoices, billing Yakima for freight that was purportedly hauled by Cooper Enterprises, but which, in fact, was never hauled. “Mr. A” received approximately $3,759,370 from Yakima, which he deposited in Cooper Enterprises bank accounts.
“Mr. A” allegedly recruited Levato to help perpetuate the scheme. Levato received a portion of the proceeds from the scheme, the indictment says, in exchange for representing himself to be an agent or employee of Cooper Enterprises and to field questions posed by Yakima employees regarding the Cooper Enterprises invoices.
According to the indictment, Levato received approximately $1 million for his assistance in perpetrating the Cooper Enterprises invoicing scheme against Yakima.
Southern Logistics Scheme
Levato allegedly submitted additional fictitious invoices to Yakima through his business, Southern Logistics. These invoices allegedly billed Yakima for freight purportedly hauled by Southern Logistics, but which, in fact, was never hauled. Levato presented these fictitious invoices to “Mr. A” for approval and submission to Yakima, the indictment says, and paid him half of the proceeds received from Yakima.
According to the indictment, the net profit Levato and “Mr. A” received from Yakima as a result of the Southern Logistics invoicing scheme was $220,285.
The mail fraud conspiracy is related to invoices and checks that were allegedly sent via Federal Express and through the mail between Yakima and Levato, and between Yakima and “Mr. A.” The money laundering conspiracy is related to financial transactions that involved the proceeds of the unlawful mail fraud scheme. Those transactions included the transfer of funds among the bank accounts of Levato’s businesses, Southern Logistics, Levato Properties and Quality Logistics.
The indictment also contains two forfeiture allegations, which would require Levato and his businesses to forfeit $3,992,935 to the government, which was derived from the proceeds of the alleged conspiracies, as well as the funds contained Levato’s business bank accounts.
Whitworth cautioned that the charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Robyn L. McKee. It was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and IRS-Criminal Investigation.
This news release, as well as additional information about the office of the United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, is available on-line at