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Press Release

Former Columbus Urban League Official Sentenced To 42 Months In Prison For Fraud And Identity Theft

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Ohio


CONTACT: Fred Alverson
Public Affairs Officer

COLUMBUS – Ovell K. Harrison, 55, of Columbus, Ohio was sentenced in U.S. District Court to 42 months in prison and ordered to pay $85,181.25 in restitution for fraud and identity theft he committed while 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 sentence handed down today by U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley.

According to a pre-sentencing memorandum filed by Financial Crimes Chief Brenda Shoemaker prior to today’s hearing, Harrison was employed by the Columbus Urban League as the Director of Education Services from November 12, 1997 to March 10, 2010. Between 2004 and 2010, Harrison created false invoices on his Urban League computer and submitted them for payment. He utilized his work computers and equipment to prepare and submit the fraudulent invoices. Each invoice listed a service that the contractor supposedly performed for the league. Harrison listed one of four people whose identity he had stolen as the contractor on each invoice.

The Urban League processed the invoices and generated 47 checks totaling $85,181.25, for payment of services. The Urban League left the checks for pick up by Harrison or mailed them to a mailbox rented by Harrison. The contractors were unwitting persons whom Harrison knew personally and/or had previously provided services for the Columbus Urban League. Harrison endorsed the checks and deposited them into one of three bank accounts under his control.

Harrison pleaded guilty on September 13, 2013 to one count of bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. His sentence consists of 18 months for the fraud followed by 24 months for the aggravated identity theft.

“The victims in this case are the Columbus Urban League and the individuals whose identities were stolen,” Ms. Shoemaker told the court. “In addition to sustaining a loss of $85,181.25, the Urban League’s reputation was tarnished as a result of Harrison’s activities. Also, some of the victims had to sort out matters with the IRS due to his actions.”

“We will prosecute those who violate a position of trust to serve people who need what social service agencies deliver using federal funds,” U.S. Attorney Stewart said.

“Today’s sentencing should be a warning to those who would defraud Department of Labor programs for personal gain and at the expense of those who should be served by these programs. 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.

“Mr. Harrison’s actions categorically harmed the federal government and the American taxpayer; but his action also impaired the Columbus Urban League’s ability to provide needed community services,” SAC McLaughlin said.    

Harrison’s sentence also calls for him to pay restitution to the Urban League and the agency’s insurance company. He will serve three years under court supervision after his prison term. He will surrender to begin serving his sentence at a date yet to be determined by the U.S. Marshals Service and the Bureau of Prisons.

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.

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Updated July 23, 2015