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Press Release

Former Columbus Urban League Official Pleads Guilty To Fraud And Identity Theft

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

COLUMBUS, OHIO– Ovell Harrison, 55, of Columbus, Ohio pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to one count of bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft in connection with his position as Director of Education Services at the Columbus Urban League between 2004 and 2010.

Carter M. Stewart, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, James Vanderberg, Special Agent-in-Charge of the U.S. Department of Labor – Office of the Inspector General Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations, Barry McLaughlin, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General (HUD), and Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs announced the pleas entered today before U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley.

According to testimony by an investigator with the Department of Labor, Harrison used his computers at the Columbus Urban League to prepare and submit false invoices to the Urban League. Harrison made it appear that invoices were payment for services contractors had provided to the Urban League. The contractors were unwitting persons Harrison knew personally. The Urban League processed the invoices, generated checks and either left the checks for hand pick-up by Harrison or mailed the checks to a mailbox Harrison rented. Harrison deposited the checks into one of three bank accounts he controlled. Harrison obtained $85,181.25 through the scheme.

“Today’s guilty plea underscores the Office of Inspector General’s commitment to uncover fraud involving Department of Labor grant funds intended to help those in need. The OIG will continue to work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners to investigate crimes of this nature,” said James Vanderberg, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Regional Office of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations.

Bank fraud is punishable by up to 30 years in prison. The penalty for aggravated identity theft is a mandatory term of imprisonment of two years, which must be served after any time he serves for the bank fraud.

The court will conduct a pre-sentence investigation before determining the sentence and schedule a date for sentencing.

U.S. Attorney Stewart commended the investigation by Department of Labor, HUD and the Columbus Police, as well as Financial Crimes Chief Brenda S. Shoemaker, who is representing the United States in this case.

Updated July 23, 2015