Former Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services employee admits stealing money from federal aid programs
BILLINGS — A Virginia equipment company owner who admitted to defrauding Signal Peak Energy, LLC, which operates a coal mine near Roundup, of nearly $250,000 in an equipment purchase scheme was sentenced today to four years of probation, fined $50,000 and ordered to pay restitution, U.S. Attorney Leif M. Johnson said.
Robert Wayne Ramsey, 56, of Bluefield, Virginia, pleaded guilty in November 2021 to wire fraud.
U.S. District Judge Susan P. Watters presided. Judge Watters ordered Ramsey to pay $246,268 restitution.
In court documents filed in the case, the government alleged that in March 2017, Larry J. Price, Signal Peak’s former vice president of surface operations, also owned Three Solutions, LLC. It was generally known that Signal Peak purchased significant materials through Three Solutions. Ramsey’s company, Peters Equipment Company (PEC), was doing work at Signal Peak and bidding on additional jobs. Ramsey understood that Price had the final say in awarding many of the Signal Peak jobs.
The government further alleged that in March 2017, Price asked Ramsey for help with a business transaction for Signal Peak. Price told Ramsey that Signal Peak needed to purchase equipment manufactured by a third-party distributor with whom Signal Peak’s upper management was unwilling to do business because of a dispute. Price asked if Ramsey, through PEC, would buy the equipment and sell it to Signal Peak in return for a $250,000 markup.
Price later told Ramsey that PEC should not buy the equipment and instead pay Price’s company, Three Solutions, for the price of the equipment while billing Signal Peak for the amount, plus the markup. Ramsey knew Price was using PEC as an intermediary to disguise the source of the equipment. Ramsey understood that he was deceiving certain Signal Peak managers about the source of the equipment and that the managers did not know PEC was being paid an additional $246,134 to serve as an intermediary. Ramsey also knew that Signal Peak would pay $246,134 more for the equipment as a result of making the purchase through PEC.
Price was sentenced in October 2020 to five years in prison for conviction on multiple crimes stemming from a broad corruption investigation into mine management and operations.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Colin M. Rubich, Zeno B. Baucus and Timothy Tatarka prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the FBI, IRS and Environmental Protection Agency.
Clair Johnson Howard
Public Affairs Officer