SAN FRANCISCO – Kent Laird pleaded guilty in federal court today to two counts of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, announced United States Attorney Ismail J. Ramsey and FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert K. Tripp. The plea was accepted by the Honorable Jaqueline S. Corley, U.S. District Judge.
In pleading guilty, Laird, 50, of Bothell, Washington, admitted that as the Head of Content, Video & Studios for LinkedIn Media Productions (otherwise known as LMP) he became involved in two separate conspiracies and mail fraud schemes involving two independent contractors. Specifically, in June and then in October of 2018, Laird recommended that two independent contractors be hired by LinkedIn to assist him with producing various podcast projects despite knowing that neither person had any professional experience as a podcast producer. Over the course of the next eighteen months, Laird approved a total of 129 false invoices that the independent contractors submitted to LinkedIn. Laird submitted these invoices knowing that the two independent contractors had performed little to no podcast writing and producing work on behalf of LinkedIn. As a result of receiving these false invoices, LinkedIn paid a combined total of $689,210 to the two independent contractors. During the course of the conspiracy, Laird received kickbacks in the amount of $184,050 from the falsely obtained proceeds.
A federal grand jury indicted Laird on February 21, 2023, charging him with two counts of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349, and eighteen counts of mail fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1341. Under the plea agreement, Laird pleaded guilty to the two conspiracy counts. If he complies with the plea agreement, the remaining counts will be dismissed at sentencing.
Laird faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000, plus restitution, if appropriate, for each violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349. Any sentence will be imposed by the court only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.
Judge Corley scheduled Laird’s sentencing hearing for March 27, 2024.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Barbara J. Valliere is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Kathy Tat. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.