United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Announces Participation in National Money Mule Initiative; Obtains Three Civil Injunctions Against Alleged Money Mules Involved in Lottery Scams
PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero announced that Steven Kish, 66, of Philadelphia, PA, was sentenced to three years in prison, three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay $259,019 in forfeiture and $353,488 in restitution by United States District Court Judge C. Darnell Jones. Defendant Kish was the most prolific of the numerous SEPTA managers who participated in a scheme to defraud SEPTA of approximately $900,000.
In January 2022, the defendant pleaded guilty to theft from an organization receiving federal funds, money laundering, and wire fraud. From about 2013 through 2019, the defendant and other management-level employees working in SEPTA’s Bridges and Buildings Department (“BBD”), engaged in bribery and theft schemes with two SEPTA vendors. The BBD is responsible for maintaining, repairing, and renovating SEPTA facilities throughout the southeastern Pennsylvania region. To facilitate this work, SEPTA issued “procurement cards” (also known as P-Cards) to management-level employees working in the BBD. The P-Cards, which operate as SEPTA credit cards, are to be used for purchasing items needed for the legitimate work of the BBD.
In about 2013, a codefendant, who was the Senior Director of Maintenance at SEPTA, agreed with two other codefendants, who were SEPTA vendors, to exploit the P-Card system for their mutual benefit. The Senior Director solicited the vendors to provide him with regular cash payments of approximately $1,000 to $2,000 per month. In exchange for those payments, the vendors falsely billed SEPTA through the P-Card system for items that the vendor was not providing to SEPTA. The false charges to SEPTA covered the cash payments, plus a substantial additional amount to generate fraud proceeds for the vendor. As part of the corrupt deals with the vendors, the Senior Director encouraged other BBD managers, including Kish, the Director of Maintenance just below the Senior Director of Maintenance, to use and continue to use the vendors for SEPTA purchases, growing the vendors’ business with SEPTA.
The defendant separately asked both vendors to provide him with personal products and cash with the understanding that the vendors would use the SEPTA P-Cards to fraudulently bill SEPTA for those personal products and cash and generate additional fraud proceeds for the vendors. The total value of those items and the cash was approximately $259,000, resulting in approximately $353,488 in fraudulent billing to SEPTA. In particular, one of the vendors purchased for Kish approximately $215,000 in the form of gold bullion, gold coins, and other precious metals. The purchases included several American Gold Eagle Coins, Gold American Buffalo Coins, South African Gold Krugerrand Coins, Canadian Gold Maple Leaf Coins, Royal Canadian Mint Gold Bars, and PAMP Suisse Gold Bars. Kish also obtained from the other vendor thousands of dollars in cash and personal products, such as a gas grill.
Then in June 2019, Kish attempted to conceal the scheme from authorities by having a different SEPTA manager purchase from eBay one of the gold coins (a Canadian Mint Gold Bar for approximately $4,272) that Kish had previously obtained from a vendor as part of the scheme. Kish then provided the coin to the vendor so that he could make it appear that he had purchased that coin for himself.
All of the other codefendants in this case, including the two vendors and other former SEPTA managers, were sentenced earlier this year.
“Philadelphians deserve public employees who do their jobs honestly, without gaming the system to line their own pockets,” said U.S. Attorney Romero. “The defendant’s participation in this scheme was extensive, and as one of the highest-level managers in his department, he should have known better than to engage in this level of criminal behavior.”
SEPTA Inspector General, Denise S. Wolf, said: “SEPTA employees are hard-working and dedicated to providing our customers with safe and efficient public transportation. These bad actors were the unfortunate exception, and, through these criminal prosecutions, justice was ultimately served. The SEPTA Office of Inspector General appreciates its partnership with the FBI and the United States Attorney’s Office in investigating this matter.”
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation with the assistance of the SEPTA Office of Inspector General, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Louis D. Lappen. SEPTA Office of Inspector General (OIG) launched an investigation after its internal auditors detected fraud, and subsequently the OIG shared its findings with the FBI.
UNITED STATES ATTORNEY’S OFFICE
EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
615 Chestnut Street, Suite 1250
Philadelphia, PA 19106
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