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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Texas

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, February 22, 2018

More Alarm Monitoring Company Workers Admit to Stealing from Company

HOUSTON –  The final two defendants charged in a conspiracy to commit wire fraud involving their former employer have pleaded guilty, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick. 

Michell Garcia, 36, and Ray Torres, 46, both of Houston, admitted they electronically submitted falsified vendor requests for payment to divert money to themselves from their former employer’s bank account. Torres pleaded guilty today, while Garcia pleaded guilty Feb. 16, 2018. A third member of the scheme - Sonja Martinez, 47 of Rosharon, entered her guilty plea Feb. 9, 2018.

All three worked at the Houston branch of a Florida-based security company that installed, tested and monitored fire and security systems. The Florida company had acquired the Houston branch from another company and Garcia, Torres and Martinez all worked at the predecessor company. 

The company used third party vendors to install its alarm systems. Garcia, Torres and Martinez all worked in the Accounting Department and were responsible for paying the vendors and noting in the company’s accounting system. From November 2011 until May 2016, they all participated in a scheme to divert approximately $1,661,163 to themselves and their family members. 

A computer in Texas was used to submit fraudulent vendor requests for payment to their employer’s out-of-state bank. The defendants then utilized an electronic bank token to release funds and transfer money from their employer’s account to their own bank accounts and the bank accounts of their relatives. 

U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison set sentencing for Torres on May 10, 2018, while Garcia and Martinez are set for May 3 and April 26, 2018, respectively. All face up to five years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 fine. At the hearing today, the court also entered a money judgment against Torres for $174,647.48, while Garcia and Martinez have respective money judgements for $801,198.40 and $739,450.36.  

All were permitted to remain on bond pending their sentencing hearings.

The FBI conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Belinda Beek is prosecuting the case. 

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Component(s): 
Updated February 22, 2018