Former Chief Financial Officer Of Restaurant Chain Pleads Guilty To Wire Fraud And Embezzlement From Bankruptcy Estate
BATON ROUGE, LA - United States Attorney Walt Green announced today that WILLIAM “WIL” ROS, age 45, of Cortez, Florida, pled guilty to wire fraud and embezzlement from a bankruptcy estate. The guilty pleas arise from his management and operation of Fundamental Provisions, LLC, a local company which operated 30 Popeyes’ Fried Chicken restaurants in Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida.
According to the factual summary presented at his guilty plea hearing, Fundamental Provisions, LLC was a business based in Gonzales, Louisiana. Fundamental owned and operated 30 Popeyes’ Fried Chicken and Biscuits franchise restaurants in Alabama, Florida, and Louisiana. Fundamental had gross annual revenues in excess of $20,000,000.
ROS was the Chief Financial Officer of Fundamental. As CFO, ROS was responsible for the daily management and operations of multiple Popeyes restaurants located in Alabama and Florida, including supervision of, and frequent communication with various store managers. ROS was also responsible for assuring that funds generated by each restaurant were used for the benefit of Fundamental.
In December 2009, in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Louisiana, Fundamental sought, and received, bankruptcy protection which authorized the company to reorganize its management and restructure its debt so that it could continue operating its business and thereafter pay debts it owed to numerous creditors.
A Chief Restructuring Officer was employed in January 2010 and authorized by the Bankruptcy Court to control all business operations, including disbursements of company funds, employment of key personnel, and incurrence of debt. The CRO employed and paid ROS to act as Fundamental’s CFO.
According to the facts presented at his re-arraignment hearing, because the reorganized company was unable to make payments to its creditors as promised in December 2011, Fundamental was placed in involuntary bankruptcy in March 2012. A Trustee was appointed by a Bankruptcy Judge for the purpose of liquidating the company’s assets in order to pay substantial debts owed by Fundamental to its creditors. With approval of the Bankruptcy Judge, the Trustee appointed a Chief Operating Officer to assist with the liquidation process. The COO continued ROS’s employment as Fundamental CFO until in or about May 2012.
From August 2009 through May 2012, ROS engaged in a scheme to defraud Fundamental and obtain company money by means of materially false and fraudulent pretenses, promises, and representations. According to the factual recitation at the re-arraignment hearing, the purpose of the scheme was to enrich himself using funds he diverted from Fundamental, and to conceal his diversions of company funds from officials administering Fundamental’s Bankruptcy Court proceedings.
ROS executed his scheme by using his position as Fundamental’s CFO to cause restaurant managers to divert restaurant revenues to his personal benefit. He also allegedly caused store managers to mischaracterize and cause the recording of fictitious purchases to disguise the fact that he had caused managers to remove funds from the restaurants’ cash registers for his personal benefit.
Beginning in August 2009, ROS directed an Alabama store manager to remove monies from restaurant cash registers and either deliver it to him (ROS) or mail FedEx packages of cash to persons identified by ROS.
Beginning in March 2010, ROS directed a second Alabama store manager to remove monies from restaurant cash registers and deposit the monies into bank accounts controlled by ROS, including ROS’s girlfriend, his golf club supplier, and family friend.
ROS also used the store managers to divert restaurant funds and directed them to send packages of cash to various persons, including his girlfriend, his golf club supplier, and the seller of a Ford GT race car.
In total, ROS embezzled approximately $966,257 from the Alabama restaurants during the course of the pending bankruptcy proceedings. According to the indictment, ROS allegedly enjoyed the stolen funds by purchasing a $225,000 race car and upgrading, renovating, and furnishing his Florida home.
U.S. Attorney Green stated: “Corporate executives who fleece their employers in order to finance their self-indulgence and greed will be aggressively pursued by this office. Such fraud threatens to jeopardize the fiscal integrity of our businesses and the livelihoods of those who work for them. I commend the dedicated efforts of the FBI agents and prosecutors who worked to ensure that justice was done in this case.”
FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Jeffrey S. Sallet stated: “The FBI’s Baton Rouge Resident Agency aggressively pursues those individuals who seek to unjustly enrich themselves at the expense of others. The FBI, with the exemplary support of our partners in the United States Attorney’s Office, will continue our work ensuring the integrity of the bankruptcy system and delivering those individuals responsible for corporate fraud to justice.”
The matter is being handled by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Louisiana and the Baton Rouge office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, along with assistance from the Region 5 Office of the United States Trustee. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Rene Salomon and Ryan Crosswell.