Three Sentenced For Their Roles In A $4.5 Million Conspiracy
Jacksonville, FL – United States District Judge Brian Davis today sentenced Justin Pennington (30, St. John’s County), Marcelene M. Keesbury (54, Ft. Wayne, Indiana), and Charles M. French (50, Ft. Wayne, Indiana) for their roles in a multi-million dollar conspiracy. Pennington was sentenced to five years and five months in federal prison and ordered to pay $4,075,000 in restitution. Keesbury and French were both sentenced to three years and five months’ imprisonment and were also ordered to pay $4,075,000 in restitution. A federal jury found Pennington guilty in April 2017. Keesbury and French pleaded guilty in October 2016.
According to evidence presented at trial, while Pennington was employed as an Information Technology Director at The Wholesale House, an Ohio-based company with offices in Jacksonville, he and his co-conspirators created a fraudulent company, 3 Kings, LLC. 3 Kings was incorporated in Delaware in an attempt to conceal the identity of the owners who purchased products from The Wholesale House at or near cost and then resold those products to consumers and retailers. Unbeknownst to the owners of The Wholesale House, 3 Kings illegally competed with The Wholesale House’s customers and thereby caused significant financial difficulties for the company’s legitimate customers. In all, 3 Kings purchased nearly $40 million of products from The Wholesale House and never paid the entirety of its bills owed to them. Instead, Pennington and his co-conspirators spent tens of thousands of dollars themselves, with Pennington incurring credit card balances of up to $100,000 per month, while owing his employer millions of dollars.
During the trial, Pennington’s co-conspirators testified that he was the mastermind of the scheme, created detailed proposals, named the corporation, incorporated the company, and controlled the corporation’s bank accounts. Further, The Wholesale House owners testified that they had personally infused more than $7 million into the company to ensure its survival and to protect the jobs of the company’s more than 60 employees.
"The subjects in this case developed a sophisticated scheme to deceive a local business owner using a competing business," said Charles P. Spencer, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Jacksonville Division. "Incidents of fraud, like this, are not victimless crimes. The FBI is dedicated to working closely with government and private entities to track down and stop scams in an effort to protect the business community."
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It was prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Mark Devereaux.