Oakland City man sentenced in scheme to defraud businesses
Bilked Gibson County Coal and Bridgestone Firestone out of over $244,683
Evansville – United States Attorney Josh J. Minkler announced today, Joshua W. Eaden, 38, Oakland City, Ind., was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison for orchestrating a fraud scheme.
“Mr. Eaden was a trusted employee by many in and around the Princeton community,” said Minkler. “His greed got the best of him, and now his career of lies, deceit and fraud are over. This prosecution should remind those out there who defraud local businesses, that they will face real consequences.”
Joshua Eaden was the manager of the Best-One Tire & Service of Princeton, a retail tire and automobile service sales location in Princeton. Best-One Tire & Service provided parts, supplies, and services to Gibson County Coal. Included among the items Gibson County Coal purchased from Best-One Tire & Service, was industrial heavy equipment tires and foam tire fill, a product made for inflating heavy equipment tires used in coal mining operations.
Between November 1, 2013, and March 4, 2016, Eaden devised a scheme to defraud Gibson County Coal by submitting over 300 false foam tire fill invoices using e-mail messages. Gibson County Coal then made payments by mail to Best-One Tire & Service. Those payments, amounting to more than $189,000, caused the net profit percentage of Best-One Tire & Service to appear to go up to levels yielding higher bonus payments to Eaden.
During this same time, Eaden included Bridgestone Firestone tire manufacturer in his scheme. They operated a program to reward persons for selling Bridgestone tires through retail sales outlets like Best-One Tire & Service of Princeton. As a participant gained more points within the program, the participant was eligible to receive bonuses.
Eaden reported tire sales to Bridgestone that never occurred and cited invoices related to the claimed sales that did not involve the actual sale of any eligible Bridgestone tires or substantially overstated the number and type of Bridgestone tires sold. As a result, Eaden received bonuses as incentive rewards from Bridgestone for the fictitious tire sales.
A jury returned its verdict on October 24, 2019 finding the defendant guilty of 17 Counts of wire and mail fraud. The sentencing hearing was delayed multiple times by Eaden based on claims that he suffered a medical problem after the trial that severely damaged his vision and rendered him legally blind.
The sentencing hearing was conducted on September 2, 2020. Eaden appeared for the hearing wearing dark light-blocking glasses and told the judge his vision was substantially impaired. The Court permitted the government to present evidence disputing Eaden’s claimed loss of vision. The government called an FBI agent to testify about surveillance conducted during the times Eaden had requested delays in his sentencing hearing. The surveillance evidence included video recordings and photographs of Eaden playing golf and driving a golf cart. Golf course records reflected that Eaden had played golf constantly in 2020, including on days right after he asked the Court to delay his sentencing because of his loss of vision.
After reviewing the surveillance evidence, the Judge enhanced Eaden’s sentence based on his obstruction of justice for exaggerating and misleading the Court about his alleged blindness.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Indiana State Police.
“Mr. Eaden abused his position and the trust his company had in him for one simple reason – greed. To top that off, he thought he could play on the sympathy of the court for a lighter sentence by presenting a disability that was proven to be blatantly false through the dedicated work of our agents,” said Special Agent in Charge Paul Keenan, FBI Indianapolis. “This sentence should send a clear message to anyone who would engage in such illegal activities that the FBI and our law enforcement partners will ensure you are held accountable.”
According to Assistant United States Attorneys Todd Shellenbarger and Kyle Sawa, who prosecuted this case for the government, Eaden must also serve three years of supervised release following his sentence, and pay $244,683 in restitution.
In October 2017, United States Attorney Josh J. Minkler announced a Strategic Plan designed to shape and strengthen the District’s response to its most significant public safety challenges. This prosecution sentencing demonstrates the office’s firm commitment to partner with federal and local law enforcement agencies to prosecute complex and large-scale fraud schemes. (See United States Attorney’s Office, Southern District of Indiana Strategic Plan Section 5.1)