Hidalgo County EMS owner convicted of bankruptcy fraud
McALLEN, Texas – A 48-year-old man residing in Lyford has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bankruptcy fraud, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.
Kenneth B. Ponce is the CEO of Hidalgo County Emergency Services Foundation doing business as Hidalgo County EMS, South Texas Air Med and South Texas EMS (collectively referred to as Hidalgo County EMS). On Oct. 8, 2019, Hidalgo County EMS initiated bankruptcy proceedings in the Southern District of Texas (SDTX) Corpus Christi Division. Today, Ponce admitted that during the bankruptcy proceeding, he committed perjury when filing official forms requiring him to disclose financial affairs, debts and assets of Hidalgo County EMS. Ponce failed to disclose or falsified certain transactions in order to conceal property from the bankruptcy estate. He also fraudulently received material amounts of property from the bankruptcy estate and permitted others to continue to do so.
As part of the plea, Ponce admitted to fraudulent agreements involving an Edinburg property. The purpose was to forfeit equitable interests and restructuring of over $264,000 in order to give another individual preferential treatment over other creditors. In official forms filed with the bankruptcy court, Ponce did not disclose any prior agreements concerning the property or related equitable interests Hidalgo County EMS had possessed
Hidalgo County EMS was also paying WFAS Inc. for leases on the exclusive use of two airplanes. Ponce owned WFAS. In bankruptcy filings, Ponce said the leases were dedicated to emergency transfers. In reality, at least one of the planes was inoperable during portions of the bankruptcy. Ponce also personally used the planes or they were for chartered flights he had arranged. Ponce would retain the profit, while Hidalgo County EMS paid the leases.
Ponce also knew of certain payments Hidalgo County EMS made towards a residence in McAllen he personally used as well as other payments not actually for the benefit of Hidalgo County EMS. Ponce further admitted he received an interest payment from $50,000 another individual had embezzled from the Hidalgo County EMS bankruptcy estate.
He did not disclose any of this to the bankruptcy court or Hidalgo County EMS creditors.
As part of his plea, Ponce also agreed to a money judgment in the amount of $124,010.15 and restitution to Hidalgo County EMS or its successors.
U.S. District Judge Randy Crane accepted the plea and set sentencing for May 26. At that time, Ponce faces up to five years in prison. He was permitted to remain on bond pending that hearing.
The FBI conducted the investigation with the assistance of the McAllen Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) Roberto Lopez Jr. prosecuted the case. AUSA Richard Kincheloe is representing the United States in the underlying bankruptcy proceedings.