Acting U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans announced that WAYNE SONIAT, age 61, of New Orleans, was charged in a two-count Bill of Information with wire fraud and making false statements on federal income tax returns.
According to the Bill of Information, SONIAT was employed as a warehouse manager for a New Orleans-based food production company headquartered in Metairie, which also operated a manufacturing plant in Reserve (“Company A”). SONIAT was responsible for, among other things, ensuring that employees followed appropriate procedures, keeping track of when temporary employees worked, and submitting the requisite paperwork, including time sheets, to ensure that Company A paid the temporary employees and the staffing agency through whom the temporary employees were acquired for the time the temporary employees worked. Between about November 2009 and October 2014, SONIAT embezzled approximately $437,346 from Company A in a series of approximately 200 wire transfers, without Company A’s knowledge or authorization. SONIAT did so by signing and submitting paperwork, including time sheets, indicating that temporary, contract employees (“ghost employees”) had performed work for Company A when, in fact, they had not. SONIAT obtained debit cards in the names of the ghost employees onto which payments were made for the time they allegedly worked. SONIAT then used the money to pay for personal expenses to withdraw cash at area ATMs.
If convicted, SONIAT faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 23 years in prison, 3 years of supervised release after any term of imprisonment, and a $250,000 fine.
Acting U.S. Attorney Evans reiterated that the Bill of Information is merely a charge and that the guilt of the defendant must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Acting U.S. Attorney Evans praised the work of the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigations in investigating this matter, with assistance from the United States Secret Service, the St. John the Baptist Sheriff’s Office, and the Louisiana Financial Crime Task Force. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jordan Ginsberg.