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Press Release

Cincinnati Construction Contractor Sentenced For Role In Bribery And Embezzlement Scheme

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Ohio
CONTACT: Fred Alverson
Public Affairs Officer

CINCINNATI – The owner and president of Sigma Capital, Inc. in Cincinnati, Samuel P. Mays, 62, was sentenced in U.S. District Court today to 51 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for bribing a government official and stealing from his employees’ 401k funds.

Carter M. Stewart, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Robert Hughes, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Cincinnati Field Office (FBI), Elton Malone, Special Agent in Charge, Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Office of Investigations, Special Investigations Branch, and L. Joe Rivers, Regional Director, U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration announced the sentence handed down today by Senior U.S. District Judge Sandra S. Beckwith.

A jury convicted Mays in September 2012 of one count each of bribery of a public official, conspiracy, theft or embezzlement from an employee pension plan, and making false statements. 

The scheme involved Mays and another construction contractor, Paul McDonald, 70, of Pleasant Hill, California, and David Mersch, 61, the former Operations Officer for the Cincinnati offices of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in Cincinnati.

According to trial testimony, Mersch, who lived in Florence, Kentucky accepted bribes from Mays and McDonald in the form of cash and home improvements with a value of at least $175,000 between 2005 and 2011. The jury also convicted Mays of deducting approximately $125,000 from his employees’ paychecks for contribution to their 401k plans, but never depositing the money.

“The nature of a bribery offense is difficult to quantify, because the victim is the public at large and the damage extends beyond the dollars exchanged,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Mangan wrote in a memorandum filed with the court prior to sentencing. “This pattern of bribery undermines the government contracting process and destroys the presumed impartiality of federal contracting officers.”

McDonald pleaded guilty on November 9, 2011 to one count of bribery. He was sentenced on October 31, 2012 to serve five years of probation including 21 months of home confinement and pay a $5,000 fine. He was also disqualified from holding any office of honor, trust or profit and ordered to resign his employment with Entek Mechanical Corporation and to cooperate with the United States in seeking the surrender of Entek’s certification as a government contractor. Mersch pleaded guilty on July 19, 2011 to bribery and is serving 42 months in federal prison. Both testified against Mays during the trial.

“Mays victimized taxpayers and jeopardized his hard-working employees’ futures,” said Elton Malone, Special Agent in Charge of the Special Investigations Branch within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General. “We will not tolerate conspiracy schemes and will continue to work tireless to punish such corruption.”

“Employer sponsored retirement plans serve a vital role in providing a financially secure retirement for America’s workers,” said L. Joe Rivers, Regional Director for the Cincinnati Regional Office of the Labor Department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration. “This case underscores EBSA’s commitment to protecting the assets of 401(k) and other employee benefit plans and punishing those who would divert these funds for their own enrichment.”

Stewart commended the cooperative investigation by FBI, HHS inspector general, and Department of Labor investigators, as well as Assistant U.S. Attorneys Timothy Mangan and Christy Muncy, who represented the United States in this case.

Mays will surrender to begin serving his prison sentence on a date to be set by the U.S. Marshals Service and the Bureau of Prisons.

Updated July 23, 2015