As several construction company executives are finding out the hard way, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Or a free Louis Vuitton shopping spree. Or a free $97,000 big game trophy hunting trip.
Earlier this week, six people pleaded guilty to white collar crimes including bribery and money laundering in connection with casino construction associated with the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. The $7 million in fraud was perpetrated in connection with the construction of the Choctaw Casino Resort in Durant, Oklahoma.
Lauri Ann Parsons and Brent Alan Parsons, the owner and vice president, respectively, of Builders Steel in Tulsa, pleaded guilty to providing lavish gifts and vacations to executives and employees of Flintco and the Choctaw Nation in exchange for preferential treatment in bidding, higher prices, and cash advances on services not delivered. Also charged and pleading guilty were former Flintco vice president Cordell Alan Bugg, former Scott Rice salesman and Builders Steel employee James Winfield Stewart, Flintco project manager Jerry Mark Eshenroder, and Choctaw Nation project manager Allen Mark Franklin. Three other co-conspirators have not been charged.
Lauri and Brent Parsons pleaded guilty to bribery for providing expensive vacations, gifts, vehicles, tuition, mortgage payments, and more to employees of Flintco and the Choctaw Nation. Among these extravagant gifts and trips are:
Much of the money to pay for these bribes was generated through false invoicing schemes and cash advances on supplies that were never delivered.
Flintco is one of the largest construction management companies in the state, building both the Oklahoma State Capital and the Texas State Capital as well as Oklahoma State University's Boone Pickens Stadium and the University of Oklahoma's Gaylord Family Memorial Stadium.
Flintco CEO Tom Maxwell released the following statement on behalf of the company:
"After the completion of projects for the Choctaw Nation, Flintco became aware of the improper activities of Builders Steel and its representatives in dealing with Flintco employees and projects for the Choctaw Nation from 2008 to 2010.
When Flintco learned of potential improprieties, we conducted an internal investigation which began prior to our knowledge of the federal grand jury investigation. Flintco has in place strict business ethics policies which employees are required to read and acknowledge each year to ensure compliance. Our company's investigation revealed that three employees violated these business ethics policies and accepted improper benefits from representatives of Builders Steel during work performed for the Choctaw Nation.
Two of the employees were terminated as a result of the internal company investigation. The other person in question left the company prior to our knowledge of any potential wrongdoing. Two former Flintco employees, Cordell Bugg and Mark Eshenroder, have been named by the US Attorney's office. The third former employee is still under investigation and Flintco is not at liberty to disclose that individual's name. Throughout this process, Flintco has cooperated fully with all inquiries by federal investigative agencies, the United States Attorney's Office, and the grand jury sitting in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma.
Our company recognizes the Choctaw Nation was adversely impacted by the actions of Builders Steel who influenced former Flintco employees and others to commit certain wrongdoings.
Flintco sincerely regrets this isolated incident and the negative impact it has had on the Choctaw Nation. We highly value our relationship with the Choctaw Nation and our company's Native American heritage. We will continue to cooperate with the government and the Choctaw Nation in any further investigation of persons involved.
Because legal proceedings are ongoing, Flintco cannot comment further on this matter at this time."
Flinto was named the top Native American-owned company in 2010 by DiversityBusiness.com.
Conspiracy to commit fraud is punishable by a maximum of 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Money laundering is punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
- A trip to New York City including accommodations at the Ritz Carlton and $50,000 in purchases from Louis Vuitton (total Louis Vuitton purchases over the course of the scheme amounted to $855,000)
- Plane tickets totaling $4,000 for a family trip to San Diego
- A Las Vegas vacation costing $8,200
- A $97,000 trip, including private jet, to hunt big game in Acoma, New Mexico
- $160,000 in trophy game hunting in Ethel, Missouri
- A deposit on an African safari
- A new Chevy Suburban
- Private school tuition
- Mortgage payments
- A kitchen remodel
- Loan payments on a Volvo
- A Pebble Beach golf trip
- Private jet flights to Dallas and to Mexico
- The sale of an $80,000 Cadillac Escalade for only $25,000
- A $277,000 lake home
- $100,000 in land bought to be used for the future benefit of minor children