3 Santa Clarita Valley Residents Charged in Indictment Alleging $1.7 Million Embezzlement via Sham Diversity Recruitment Companies
LOS ANGELES – Two Santa Clarity Valley residents were arrested today on a federal indictment accusing them of scheming to defraud a company out of more than $1.7 million earmarked for diversity recruitment by using two fake businesses that billed for services that were never performed.
The 17-count grand jury indictment contains wire fraud, mail fraud and conspiracy charges. The two defendants arrested this morning are:
- Judith Fernandez-Adelugba, 43, of Stevenson Ranch, the former human resources manager at Company-1, a Santa Clarita-based business that provided a technical and operations center for high performance racing programs, specializing in the design and development of racing engines and various high-performance automotive parts; and
- Alex Lawrence Wilkison, 47, a.k.a. “Alex Wilkerson,” of Canyon Country, the registered owner of Engineering Talent Connect (ETC), a fictitious business name registered to an address in Mission Hills.
The defendants are expected to make their initial appearances this afternoon in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles.
A third defendant, George Albert Fernandez, 73, also of Stevenson Ranch, the father of Fernandez-Adelugba and the president and chief executive officer of the Stevenson Ranch-based Business Solutions Services (BSS), is currently out of state and is expected to be taken into custody soon.
According to the indictment, Fernandez-Adelugba was responsible for diversity recruitment, which included implementing and managing programs to encourage persons from diverse gender, racial, ethnic, and other backgrounds to apply for jobs with her employer. She also had the authority to approve the payment of invoices of up to $25,000, the indictment states.
From March 2015 until her resignation from Company-1 in February 2018, Fernandez-Adelugba, her father, and Wilkison, who was married to a colleague and friend of Fernandez-Adelugba at Company-1, allegedly used BSS and ETC to embezzle Company-1 funds and divert this misappropriated money for their own personal enrichment.
The defendants allegedly submitted and caused to be submitted to Company-1 fake invoices issued by BSS and ETC that requested payment for diversity recruitment-related services purportedly performed. These “services” included posting job openings, placing job-related advertisements, searching for candidates, and successfully recruiting candidates for Company-1, according to the indictment.
Fernandez-Adelugba approved the fake invoices for payment, delivered them to Company-1’s accounting department, and followed up to request and facilitate payment of the fake invoices, the indictment alleges.
After Company-1 issued payments on the fake invoices, the defendants allegedly used their illicit gains for personal expenditures such as credit card bills, dining at restaurants, items bought at grocery stores, pool supplies, and cash withdrawals.
Between April 2015 and January 2018, based on these fake invoices, the defendants caused Company-1 to transfer $1,562,364 to BSS and $183,600 to ETC. The total loss to Company-1 was $1,745,964, according to the indictment.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Each charge of mail fraud and wire fraud carries a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison. If convicted of all charges, Fernandez-Adelugba would face more than 300 years in federal prison.
The FBI investigated this matter.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Scott Paetty of the Major Frauds Section.