LAWFUEL – Law News, Law Jobs Network – R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Brian J. Wimpling, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division, Miami Office (IRS-CI), and Robert E. Harris, Special Agent in Charge, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, Southeast Field Office (DCIS), announced today’s guilty plea by Charles C. Hermanowski, a/k/a “John Stobierski,” 72, formerly of Miami Beach, to various tax and fraud charges arising out of Hermanowski’s operation of a series of Miami-based cable television companies.
At today’s hearing, Hermanowski pled guilty to: two (2) counts of tax evasion (26 U.S.C. §7201); fourteen (14) counts of aiding and assisting in the preparation of false tax returns (26 U.S.C. §7206(2)); ten (10) counts of submitting false claims to the Department of Defense (18 U.S.C. §287); one (1) count of conspiring to commit mail fraud against cable television networks (18 U.S.C. §371); and twelve (12) counts of mail fraud through defrauding cable television networks (18 U.S.C. §1341). Hermanowski entered his guilty plea in federal court in Miami before United States District Judge Patricia A. Seitz.
Hermanowski’s guilty plea is the result of a long-term investigation that commenced in March 1998. In December 2000, Hermanowski fled the United States and started living under the name of “John Stobierski.” On January 30, 2002, agents from the Australian Federal Police apprehended Hermanowski in Sydney, Australia, where Hermanowski had been trying to obtain a Canadian visa in the name of “John Stobierski.” After fighting extradition from Australia for over four years, Hermanowski was extradited back to the United States in late June 2006.
During the 1990s, Hermanowski operated Americable International, Inc., and a series of affiliates that provided cable television service to various U.S. military installations, as well as civilian customers. Hermanowski co-owned these companies with his wife. During the mid-1990s, Hermanowski oversaw a wide-ranging scheme to create scores of false accounting and financial documents to cover-up the diversion of approximately $50 million for Hermanowski’s personal use. As part of this scheme, Hermanowski directed company employees in the creation of a succession of false invoices and other false expenditure documents that were entered into company books and records. Hermanowski would have company employees write checks to “pay” these false expenditures, which Hermanowski would divert for his own use.
The diverted funds included over $45 million dollars worth of company checks that Hermanowski had drawn to pay falsified company expenses. Hermanowski falsely endorsed these checks and deposited them into his account at Community Bank in Miami-Dade County. Approximately $38 million of these checks corresponded to false invoices for non-existent construction expenses created at Hermanowski’s direction. Another $8 million consisted of proceeds of long-running scheme to defraud cable television networks, in which Hermanowski directed company employees to regularly under-report and under-pay sums owed to over 50 cable television networks that supplied programming to Americable customers. Hermanowski directed another $2 million in checks into a secret bank account that he maintained in Liechtenstein and falsified more company records to cover-up his use of another $2 million in company funds to finance his art collection.
The various records led to substantial falsifications on Americable corporate tax returns and Hermanowski’s personal returns for 1995 and 1996. Through the scheme, Hermanowski evaded payment of millions of dollars of federal income tax due on his personal returns, IRS Forms 1040. Based upon facts proffered to the Court by the United States Attorney’s Office, Hermanowski evaded payment of at least $13.5 million for tax year 1995 and at least another $5.5 million for tax year 1996.
The offenses involving the false claims to the Department of Defense arose out of a scheme in which Hermanowski used false company records to try to defraud the military into authorizing payment of approximately $3.8 million for falsified cost claims. In the early 1990s, the Department of Defense embarked upon a plan to close various military bases around the United States, including bases at which Americable companies had provided cable television service. In June 1997, five Americable companies filed “Termination Settlement Proposals” (“TSPs) with the government in which the Americable companies claimed to have incurred various costs at 10 closed bases for which they sought reimbursement. The TSPs included costs that were based upon false construction invoices used as part of the tax fraud scheme.
After a Defense Contract Audit Agency auditor uncovered fraud in the TSPs, DCIS agents executed a warrant to search Americable’s offices in south Miami-Dade County. Hermanowski was present when the search was conducted and was advised of the federal investigation involving the submission of false TSPs. In the succeeding years, the investigation expanded into the tax and other fraud offenses.
At sentencing, Hermanowski faces up to five years’ imprisonment on each count of tax evasion; up to three years’ imprisonment on each count of aiding and assisting in the preparation of false tax returns; up to five years’ imprisonment on each count of submitting false claims to the Department of Defense; and up to five years’ imprisonment on the conspiracy count and each of the mail fraud counts. Sentencing is set before Judge Seitz on March 2, 2007, at 10:00 a.m.
Prior to today’s guilty pleas, this investigation had resulted in the successful prosecution of two former Americable officials and three Americable companies. In November 2002, Americable International, Inc., Americable International Moffett, Inc., and Americable International New York, Inc., pled guilty to conspiring to defraud the Department of Defense. Americable International, Inc., also pled guilty to conspiring to launder the proceeds of the mail fraud scheme against the cable television networks. In September 2003, Judge Seitz sentenced the companies to payment of over $22 million in fines, forfeiture, and restitution.
In May 2005, Judge Seitz sentenced former Americable comptroller Alice Pirchesky to a 78-month term of imprisonment following her convictions for multiple offenses associated with the different Americable fraud schemes. In December 2002, Rick Hensley, Americable’s former Treasurer and Director of Finance, pled guilty to two counts associated with the schemes. Hensley, who cooperated with authorities and testified as a government witness in Pirchesky’s trial, has completed service of his 15-month term of imprisonment.
U.S. Attorney Acosta stated, “By fleeing the United States and adopting a new identity, this defendant attempted to evade accountability for his crimes. Today’s convictions highlights federal law enforcement’s diligence and persistence in rooting out and prosecuting major white-collar offenders.”
“This case sends a message that IRS – CI will aggressively investigate those individuals who attempt to defraud the United States Government and the American tax payers,”said Brian Wimpling, Special Agent in Charge for IRS-CID, Miami.
“This complex and challenging case demonstrates DCIS’ continuing commitment to fighting significant fraud against the Department of Defense and its Warfighters. DCIS Special Agents, working with other law enforcement and audit agencies, persistently and patiently pursued the Americable subjects until they were all brought to justice,” said Robert E. Harris, Special Agent in Charge of the Pentagon’s Defense Criminal Investigative Service.
Mr. Acosta commended the investigative efforts of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations, and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, and the Defense Contract Audit Agency. Mr. Acosta also thanked the Australian Federal Police for its 2002 capture of Hermanowski, and the Australia Attorney General’s Department, for litigating Hermanowski’s successful extradition to the United States. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Davis.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls . Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov/ or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov/.