Construction company owner sentenced to prison for mail fraud involving worker safety and embezzlement from company 401(k) program
CINCINNATI – The owner of a Cincinnati-based construction company was sentenced in U.S. District Court today to 18 months in prison for fraudulently obtaining employee safety training certificates and embezzling from the company’s pension benefit program.
Ron Craig Estes, owner of R&R Steel, LLC, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Timothy S. Black in January 2020 to mail fraud and theft from an employee benefit plan.
According to court documents, Estes devised a scheme in 2015 to skirt Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements by buying fake employee training certifications in order to compete for a contract to provide steel installation and other work for the 8th and Sycamore project in Cincinnati. Estes paid $800 for 10 fake training certificates to avoid the costs and time associated with ensuring that all of the company’s employees had completed appropriate safety training. R&R received the $450,000 contract to do the work.
Court documents also say Estes embezzled between $15,000 and $40,000 from the company’s 401(k) retirement benefit plan established for the workers. Estes completed distribution forms for workers who had left the company and forged the participant’s signature on the distribution checks in order to cash the checks for his own benefit and use.
At sentencing, the United States argued that many of the victims in this case were particularly vulnerable due to being limited English proficient, migrant workers who feared reporting Estes’ criminal activities. According to court records, the Ohio Department of Commerce found that the company had violated the prevailing wage laws for the 8th & Sycamore project and ordered R&R Steel, LLC to pay $292,276.33, including $150,789.09 in past wages due and $141,487.24 in penalties associated with these violations.
Kenneth L. Parker, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, commended the investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General. Assistant United States Attorney Ebunoluwa Taiwo is representing the United States in this case.
If you believe you are a victim of this fraud, please contact the Department of Labor at 1-866-444-3272.
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