Denver, N.C. Man Pleads Guilty To Federal Charges For Defrauding His Former Employer Of More Than $4 Million
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Michael Guzman, 43, of Denver, N.C., appeared before U.S. District Judge David S. Cayer and pleaded guilty to federal charges for defrauding his former employer of more than $4 million, announced William T. Stetzer, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.
Robert R. Wells, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Charlotte Division, joins Acting U.S. Attorney Stetzer in making today’s announcement.
According to the filed criminal information to which Guzman pleaded guilty, other documents filed in this case and statements made in court, from June 2019 to May 2020, Guzman executed a scheme to defraud his employer, identified in court documents as Company A, of more than $4 million, by improperly auctioning off Company A’s assets and funneling the proceeds through shell companies he formed to perpetuate the fraud.
According to plea documents, Guzman was employed by Company A from March 2008 until the company fired him for his conduct in May 2020. Company A is a large equipment rental company headquartered in Fort Mill, S.C., that rents out on-road and off-road machinery for construction and other purposes. During the relevant timeframe, Guzman worked for Company A as a Fleet Operations Manager, and was responsible for, among other things, the disposal of aged equipment, also known as assets.
As Guzman admitted in court today, during the relevant time period, he arranged for approximately 398 assets of Company A to be auctioned off through an online auction house that buys and sells used heavy construction equipment, referred to in court document as Company B. To perpetuate the fraud, Guzman represented to Company B that the assets were owned by Guzman’s shell companies, Second Life Equipment LLC and All Seasons Sales and Service, when in fact the majority of the assets were still owned by Company A. In his capacity as a Fleet Operations Manager, Guzman was able to hide the scheme from Company A by manipulating internal company records.
According to court documents, Guzman arranged for the proceeds of the sales to be sent to a bank account that he controlled, and used the fraudulent proceeds to buy a condominium in South Carolina, a plot of land in New York, an RV vehicle, a boat, and multiple cars and trucks.
Guzman pleaded guilty to wire fraud, which carries a maximum prison term of 20 years, and money laundering, which carries a statutory maximum of up to 10 years in prison. Guzman has also agreed to pay forfeiture money judgment in the amount of at least $4,044,475, which is the amount constituting the proceeds of the violations in the charging document, and to forfeit assets purchased with fraud proceeds, as well as monies in multiple bank accounts.
Guzman was released on bond following his guilty plea. A sentencing date has not been set.
In making today’s announcement, Acting U.S. Attorney Stetzer thanked the FBI for their investigation which led to today’s guilty plea.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria Vento, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte, is prosecuting the case.