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Press Release

Utah Man Found Guilty of Defrauding Organic Produce Distributor Out of $5.8 Million via Sham Invoices Sent by Shell Company

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Central District of California

LOS ANGELES – A Utah man has been found guilty by a jury for participating in a long-running scheme in which he sent fake invoices on behalf of a shell company to defraud a family-owned organic produce distributor out of $5.8 million, the Justice Department announced today.

Kevin Scott Horton, 56, of Saratoga Springs, Utah, was found guilty of seven counts of mail fraud late Monday.

According to evidence presented at a nine-day trial, from February 2000 to April 2018, Horton schemed with Tony Anhtuan Rawlings, 57, of Garden Grove, the information technology (IT) director at Melissa’s World Variety Produce Inc., a Vernon-based company, to defraud Melissa’s out of its money through the approval of payment of invoices for IT services that were never provided.

In February 2000, Horton created a shell company called Creative Network Solutions (CNS), whose purpose was to send fraudulent bills to its sole client, Melissa’s. In consultation with Rawlings, Horton created two fictitious invoices per month, in which CNS billed Melissa’s for IT services that CNS did not provide, for approximately 18 years, through February 2018.

Horton provided the fictitious invoices to Rawlings, who approved them, vouched for their operational necessity, and then forwarded them to a Melissa’s executive who was asked to have Melissa’s pay CNS the amounts listed on the sham invoices.

Horton and Rawlings falsely represented to Melissa’s executives that CNS provided IT services to Melissa’s. In fact, CNS never provided services to Melissa’s or any other company, and by using CNS, deceived and concealed from Melissa’s that CNS was affiliated with one of their own employees.

Horton, along with Rawlings, caused Melissa’s to send CNS payment in the form of checks mailed through the U.S. Mail to a post office box to which Horton had sole access. Horton deposited the checks he received through the scheme into a bank account that he exclusively controlled. Horton then funneled Rawlings a portion of the money that Melissa’s paid to CNS, in the form of checks sent via U.S. Mail to addresses where Rawlings lived.

In total, Horton, along with Rawlings, caused Melissa’s to pay CNS approximately $5,852,604 because of the fictitious invoices.

United States District Judge Mark C. Scarsi scheduled an August 5 sentencing hearing, at which time Horton will face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for each mail fraud count.

Rawlings pleaded guilty in August 2022 to one count of mail fraud. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for June 20.

The FBI investigated this matter.

Assistant United States Attorneys Eli A. Alcaraz of the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section, Kelsey A. Stimson of the General Crimes Section, and Haoxiaohan H. Cai of the Major Frauds Section are prosecuting this case.


Ciaran McEvoy
Public Information Officer
(213) 894-4465

Updated May 14, 2024

Financial Fraud
Press Release Number: 24-114