Owner Of Child Support Collection Business Enters Guilty Plea
Michael J. Moore, United States Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, announced that Stuart C. Cole, 59, of St. Petersburg Beach, Florida, entered a plea of guilty on January 13, 2014, to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Mr. Cole entered his plea of guilty before Senior U.S. District Court Judge Hugh Lawson in Valdosta, Georgia.
As a part of his plea, Mr. Cole admitted that from September 2007 through August 2009, he and others conspired to operate a fraudulent private child support collection business in Lake Park, Georgia and in other locations. Mr. Cole and his associates defrauded custodial parents who were to receive child support payments by inducing them to sign collection agreements with his company and offering to assist them in collecting child support payments from non-custodial parents, claiming that all fees connected with the collections would be the responsibility of the non-custodial parent. They would then use fraud, deception and coercion to get non-custodial parents and their employers to send funds for "child support" to Mr. Cole's business. Only a portion of the funds was ever given to the parents for the use of the children. The remainder was retained by Mr. Cole and his associates to lease homes, cars and boats. The conspiracy collected more than $2.3 million and retained approximately $1.2 million. Additionally, Mr. Cole admitted to laundering the collected funds through bank accounts including an account for a corporation, purported to be a church, as "love gifts".
The Court has scheduled sentencing for April 28, 2014 in Valdosta, Georgia. Mr. Cole faces a maximum possible sentence of up to twenty (20) years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $250,000, or both, on Count 1 of the indictment and up to twenty (20) years imprisonment, a maximum fine of $500,000.00 or twice the value of the property involved in the transactions, whichever is greater, or both. Mr. Cole also agreed to forfeit all assets obtained directly or indirectly through his criminal activity.
U.S. Attorney Michael Moore said, "Mr. Cole took advantage of victims who needed help the most. These were parents trying to raise children on their own and having to do it without the financial support these children were due from parents who were not living up to their financial obligations. On the one hand, Mr. Cole offered hope to the custodial parents, and then with the other hand, he snatched the money that they were counting on to support their children away from them."
"The actions committed by Mr. Cole are especially troubling, given that ultimately the victims were children. The Governor's Office of Consumer Protection is pleased to have initiated this investigation more than five years ago and to see this individual finally brought to justice," said John D. Sours, Administrator, Georgia Governor's Office of Consumer Protection.
"Those individuals who line their pockets with money gained through deceiving others should know they will not go undetected and will be held accountable," stated Special Agent in Charge, Veronica F. Hyman-Pillot. "IRS Criminal Investigation is committed to 'following the money trail' to ensure that those who engage in these illegal activities are vigorously investigated and brought to justice".
"U.S. Postal Inspectors have protected the sanctity of the U.S. mails for over 200 years. Working closely with our law enforcement partners, we were persistent in our investigative efforts to bring to justice those responsible for victimizing the families in this particular case. The use of U.S. mail to defraud the American public cannot and will not be tolerated," said Keith A. Pixel, Inspector in Charge, Charlotte Division.
The case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations, United States Postal Inspection Service and the Georgia Governor's Office of Consumer Protection. Assistant United States Attorney Robert D. McCullers is handling the prosecution for the Government.
For additional information please contact Pamela Lightsey, Public Information Officer, United States Attorney’s Office at (478) 621-2603.