Houston Man Charged with Defrauding VFW
|June 15, 2012|
HOUSTON - Joe H. Nichols has been arraigned on a one-count criminal information charging him with mail fraud in connection with charitable donations from the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW), United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. Nichols, 46, of Houston, appeared today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Smith.
The VFW is a charitable organization that supports veterans and active duty personnel who have or are serving in the United States military overseas. According to the allegations in the criminal information, the VFW agreed to fund a communication project that would allow soldiers deployed in remote locations in Iraq to communicate with their families. Nichols allegedly agreed to assist the VFW by having his company, Prasolus, serve as project manager to get the communication hardware and software to Iraq.
The Texas VFW raised approximately $182,000 for the communication project, from which Nichols submitted invoices for payment. In June 2007, he allegedly traveled to the national headquarters of the VFW in Kansas City and induced the national VFW to give him an additional $100,000, which he said he needed to complete the communication project and deploy it to Iraq. Although the national VFW mailed a check to Nichols for $100,000, the communication system was never delivered. Instead, he allegedly used funds from the $100,000 for his personal benefit.
Judge Smith permitted Nichols to remain free with the execution of a $50,000 unsecured bond under the condition he surrender his passport and travel only within the continental United States.
The maximum penalty, upon conviction, for mail fraud is 20 years in prison and a possible $250,000 fine.
The investigation leading to the charges was conducted by the FBI. Assistant United States Attorney Belinda Beek is prosecuting the case.
A criminal information is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.