U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans announced that WAYNE SONIAT, age 61, of New Orleans, was sentenced today by United States District Judge Martin L.C. Feldman to fifteen (15) months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, after previously pleading guilty to a two-count Bill of Information for wire fraud and making false statements on federal income tax returns. SONIAT was also ordered to repay $481,231 in restitution.
According to court documents, SONIAT was employed as a warehouse manager for a New Orleans-based food production company headquartered in Metairie, Louisiana, which also operated a manufacturing plant in Reserve, Louisiana (“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. Additionally, SONIAT failed to report the income from his scheme on his federal income tax returns, which resulted in a loss to the United States Government in the form of tax due and owing in the amount of approximately $43,885.
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 was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jordan Ginsberg.