3 June – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – The man who ran the Los Angeles office of public relations giant Fleishman-Hillard Inc. was indicted today on federal conspiracy and fraud charges that allege he participated in a scheme to submit hundreds of thousands of dollar worth of fraudulent bills to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
Douglas R. Dowie, 57, of West Hills, was named in a 16-count superseding indictment returned this afternoon by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles. Dowie, who began working at Fleishman-Hillard in 1991, acted as a senior vice president, senior partner and then general manager of the firm’s Los Angeles office until he was placed on leave in February 2004.
Also named in the indictment is John Stodder, a 49-year-old resident of Palos Verdes Estates, was named earlier this year in the grand jury’s initial indictment in this case. Stodder, who was a senior vice president and a partner at Fleishman-Hillard, was in charge of the Los Angeles office’s “public affairs” practice group from May 2002 until he left the firm last week. Today’s indictment, which alleges that Dowie and Stodder conspired to swindle the DWP, supersedes and replaces the earlier indictment in which Stodder was the sole defendant.
The superseding indictment specifically alleges that Fleishman-Hillard submitted well over $300,000 in fraudulent bills to the DWP from January 2000 through January 2004. The indictment also alleges that several other Fleishman-Hillard clients were overbilled as part of the scheme. Those clients are the Port of Los Angeles, Gehry Partners LLP and the World Wide Church of God.
The indictment outlines a scheme to defraud the DWP and the other clients. The indictment details communications in January 2003 in which Dowie asks Stodder if they could “pad” the DWP bill by $30,000. In response, Stodder allegedly informed Dowie that $30,000 was “more than the system could bear,” but that another Fleishman-Hillard employee had informed Stodder that they could “slip through another $15k without incurring too much more scrutiny.” Later that month, the indictment alleges, Dowie and Stodder caused that other Fleishman-Hillard employee to increase the number of hours billed to DWP to fraudulently overcharge the agency $6,855.
The indictment accuses Dowie and Stodder of conspiracy. Additionally, Dowie is charged with 15 counts of wire fraud, while Stodder faces 11 counts of wire fraud. The conspiracy charge carries a maximum possible penalty of five years in federal prison, and each count wire fraud carries a maximum possible penalty of 20 years in prison.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
Dowie is expected to surrender to federal authorities tomorrow and to make his first court appearance tomorrow afternoon in United States District Court.
The case is the product of an ongoing, joint investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Department of Transportation and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office Bureau of Investigation. The prosecution is a collaborative effort between the United States Attorney’s Office and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. Fleishman-Hillard, Inc. has cooperated in the investigation.
CONTACT: Assistant United States Attorney Adam D. Kamenstein