Co-Founder of OXYwater and Wife Sentenced for Wire Fraud, Money Laundering and Tax Crimes
A husband and wife residing in Lewis Center, Ohio, were sentenced to prison in U.S. District Court today for their roles in a fraud scheme related to the company Imperial Integrative Health Research and Development LLC (Imperial) and its product, OXYwater, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Carter M. Stewart of the Southern District of Ohio.
Preston J. Harrison, 43, and Lovena Harrison, 42, were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Gregory L. Frost of the Southern District of Ohio. Preston Harrison was sentenced to serve 83 months in prison and three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $375,985.15 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and $8,840,706 to victims of the fraud, and to forfeit $1.1 million, including two vehicles, eight weapons, cash and the contents of a bank account. Lovena Harrison, Preston Harrison’s wife, was sentenced to serve one year and one day in prison and three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $375,985.15 in restitution to the IRS.
“The sentences imposed today reflect the department’s commitment to investigating and vigorously prosecuting individuals who defraud investors, misappropriate funds to finance lavish lifestyles and file false tax returns to conceal their ill-gotten gains,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Ciraolo. “Like the Harrisons, those who engage in such conduct will pay a heavy price.”
The couple went to trial in March and were convicted of multiple crimes. Preston Harrison’s business partner, Thomas E. Jackson, 40, of Powell, Ohio, was also convicted at trial for his role in the scheme and is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 1. Preston Harrison was convicted of conspiracy to defraud the United States and filing a false income tax return, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and 12 counts of money laundering. Lovena Harrison was convicted of conspiracy to defraud the United States and filing a false income tax return, and structuring financial transactions to evade currency reporting requirements. Jackson was convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, eight counts of wire fraud and 12 counts of money laundering.
“Preston Harrison and his co-conspirators made OXYwater appear to be a lucrative and profitable financial investment, touting investments and endorsements from athletes, a musician and others,” said U.S. Attorney Stewart. “After they convinced folks to invest, they misappropriated that money to fuel their own lavish lifestyle, buying items like jewelry, luxury vehicles, weapons and swimming pools.”
“Today’s sentencings mark the successful end of an investigation that uncovered an investment fraud scheme laced with a web of financial lies that generated millions of dollars through false promises and deceit,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Troy N. Stemen of the IRS-Criminal Investigation (CI) Cincinnati Field Office. “Investment fraud schemes are often described as a house of cards. The underlying structure can fall apart at any time and expose the individuals responsible.”
“The Harrisons and their business partner took advantage of unsuspecting investors to line their own pockets,” said Special Agent in Charge Angela L. Byers of the FBI’s Cincinnati Division. “Hopefully they will now understand that their irresponsible actions have real consequences.”
According to court testimony, Jackson and Preston Harrison operated Imperial, based in Westerville, Ohio, and developed OXYwater, a beverage that promoters claimed was an all-natural, vitamin-enhanced sports drink that contained added oxygen for improved physical performance.
The defendants engaged in a scheme to deceive the investors in Imperial about Imperial and OXYwater’s structure, composition, finances, sales and profits in order to make the company appear to be a lucrative and profitable financial investment. Jackson and Preston Harrison produced and sent false and fraudulent documents intended to deceive investors in order to obtain additional investments in Imperial. They then misappropriated that money for their own personal use, including the purchase of jewelry, a Cadillac Escalade, a BMW vehicle, weapons, clothing, home improvements and a swimming pool.
Between August 2010 and spring 2013, Jackson and Preston Harrison misappropriated approximately $2 million of the investors’ funds. The defendants’ scheme caused investors to suffer substantial losses when the corporation was forced to declare bankruptcy with no assets. As a result of the defendants’ conduct, investors lost approximately $9 million.
In 2011, Preston Harrison misappropriated approximately $1.1 million from Imperial, which he and Lovena Harrison diverted into an account in the name of a daycare business and used for personal expenses. The Harrisons did not report the money as income on their 2011 income tax return.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Ciraolo and U.S. Attorney Stewart commended special agents of IRS-CI and FBI, who investigated the case, as well as Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Kim of the Southern District of Ohio and Trial Attorney Jason Scheff of the Tax Division, who prosecuted the case.
Additional information about the Tax Division and its enforcement efforts may be found on the division’s website.