Former Fresno Business CFO Charged With Embezzling And Money Laundering
FRESNO, Calif. — Anthony Lester, 51, of Fresno, was indicted today by a federal grand jury, charging him with mail fraud and money laundering, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.
According to court documents, Lester was the controller at Century Builders in Fresno, and later the Chief Financial Officer. During his employment, he had access to the financial accounts of another Fresno business, Highlands Energy Services. Between November 2010 and December 2011, Lester used this access to divert money from bank accounts and credit cards held by Highlands Energy Services into other financial accounts, including Lester’s own PayPal Inc. account. He attempted to conceal the embezzled funds by transferring them into his personal bank account. In total, Lester embezzled approximately $300,000 from Highlands Energy Services.
According to the indictment, employees of Highlands Energy Services and Century Builders questioned Lester about payments to some vendors because they were inconsistent with company practices. One of the questionable vendors was American Products, which was in fact a fictitious company invented by Lester to conceal his embezzlement. In response to such questions, Lester attempted to make it appear that American Products was a legitimate vendor. First, he visited a local supply company near Fresno claiming to be from “Valley Builders” (also a fictitious company). Then, he purchased weather stripping, dead bolts, spring hinges and thresholds. He packaged the goods for delivery to Highlands and labeled them as coming from American Products in New York. Then Lester sent the goods from a Fresno UPS facility.
This case is the product of an investigation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Fresno Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Patrick R. Delahunty is prosecuting the case.
If convicted of mail fraud, Lester faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release. If convicted of money laundering, he faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, and a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved, whichever is greater, and three years of supervised release. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations; the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.