Senior MARTA Executive Sentenced to Federal Prison

State & National

SENIOR MARTA EXECUTIVE SENTENCED TO FEDERAL PRISON

FOR CAUSING MARTA TO PAY $500,000 FOR WORK NEVER PERFORMED

ATLANTA – Former MARTA Senior Director of Operations Joseph J. Erves has been sentenced to two years, nine months in federal prison for orchestrating a false invoicing scheme that resulted in MARTA paying more than $500,000 for maintenance work that was never performed and for then funneling most of that money into his personal bank accounts.

“Given his executive management position, it is clear that MARTA placed great trust and faith in Erves,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak.  “Unfortunately, instead of serving the public interest and taking his civic duty seriously, Erves chose to indulge his desire for money and a fancy car.  His quest for personal enrichment has earned him this sentence and time to reflect on his dishonesty.”

“The vast majority of public servants are honest and dedicated people who strive to do the right thing for their constituents and their communities. Unfortunately there are a few, like Mr. Erves, who are only concerned about themselves,” said David J. LeValley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “His actions hit at the heart of government and erode public confidence. That’s why the FBI makes public corruption our top criminal priority.”

“Mr. Erves dishonored his position and violated the trust of the Authority and the communities we serve,” said MARTA Police Chief Wanda Dunham.  “This sentence is proof that no one is above the law. The MARTA Police Department continues to take these types of crimes seriously and we will aggressively pursue criminal prosecution.”

According to U.S. Attorney Pak, the charges, and other information presented in court: the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (“MARTA”) is the principal public transportation operator in the Atlanta metropolitan area, providing fixed rail and bus service to more than 500,000 passengers per weekday. Formed in 1965, MARTA is a multi-county governmental agency with a 2016 annual budget of more than $880 million.

From 1993 to 2017, Erves worked for MARTA, ultimately serving as its Senior Director of Operations.  In that position, Erves oversaw the maintenance of all MARTA buses and rail cars and had the authority to approve payments of up to $10,000 to vendors for work performed on behalf of MARTA.

Beginning in 2010, Erves retained three different vendors purportedly to perform maintenance projects for MARTA, including repairing brake testing equipment and fixing various MARTA tools and equipment.  From approximately June 2010 to December 2016, Erves had fake invoices prepared on behalf of the three vendors for more than 40 maintenance projects for which no work was performed.

Erves then used the false invoices as bases to authorize payments to the three vendors.  In many cases, Erves personally approved payments to the vendors knowing that the vendors had not performed any work for MARTA.

After receiving payment, the three vendors funneled most of the money they received from MARTA into Erves’s personal bank accounts.  Subsequently, Erves used the money deposited into his accounts to pay personal expenses, such as multiple purchases at high-end department stores and the purchase of a Porsche 911.  Based on Erves’s authority and representations, MARTA paid the three vendors more than $500,000 for maintenance projects where no work was actually performed.

Joseph J. Erves, 53, of Lithonia, Georgia, has been sentenced to two years, nine months in federal prison, and ordered to pay $522,825.45 in restitution.  On August 24, 2017, Erves pleaded guilty to one count of Federal Program Theft.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the MARTA Police Department are investigating this case.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeffrey W. Davis and Alison Prout are prosecuting the case.

For further information, please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016.  The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.

Jonesboro Man Sentenced To Prison For Distributing Child Pornography

State & National

JONESBORO MAN SENTENCED TO PRISON

FOR DISTRIBUTING CHILD PORNOGRAPHY

ATLANTA – Kenneth Shipp has been sentenced to eight years, one month in prison for distributing child pornography.  The defendant had hundreds of thousands of photographs and thousands of videos at his residence, which he shared on peer-to-peer websites.

“Kenneth Shipp’s collection of child pornography is the largest of anyone ever prosecuted in this district,” said U. S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak. “It is abhorrent that someone could derive gratification from the sexual abuse of children, and the amount that Shipp possessed is staggering.  We will continue to work with federal and state law enforcement partners to find those who trade and collect child pornography and bring them to justice.”

“The outcome of this case should serve as a warning to others we will aggressively investigate and bring to justice those who would prey on our most vulnerable population,” said ICE-HSI Atlanta Acting Special Agent in Charge Gregory Wiest.  “HSI continues working closely with our federal and state partners to ensure we identify and arrest the perpetrators of these vile crimes.”

          According to U.S. Attorney Pak, the charges and other information presented in court: in February 2016, special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (“ICE-HSI”) and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (“GBI”) were investigating persons who were using peer-to-peer programs to trade images and videos of child pornography. The agents were able to download a video from a computer that showed young boys being sexually abused.  Information that they obtained while downloading the video revealed that it came from a computer at a house in Jonesboro, Georgia.

          Agents with ICE-HSI obtained a federal search warrant for a house in Jonesboro, and carried out a search on May 9, 2016.  There, agents found numerous computers, laptops, television monitors, thumb drives and other electronic devices, all containing child pornography.  A subsequent examination of those devices showed that Shipp had 447,268 images and 19,395 videos.  Specifically, he had more than 60 terabytes of child pornography.

          Kenneth Shipp, 58, of Jonesboro, Georgia, has been sentenced to eight years, one months in prison to be followed by 15 years of supervised release.  Shipp was convicted of these charges on October 5, 2017, after he pleaded guilty.

          This case was investigated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

          Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul R. Jones prosecuted the case.

This case is being brought as part of Project Safe Childhood.  In February 2006, the Attorney General launched Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse.  Led by the United States Attorney’s Offices around the country, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children.  For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.

For further information, please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016.  The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.

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Politics

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News, State & National

Convenience Store Owners Sentenced for Food Stamp Fraud and Identity Theft

State & National
Convenience Store Owners Sentenced
for Food Stamp Fraud AND IDENTITY THEFT

ATLANTA – Jonathan and Stephanie Dupiton have been sentenced for using stolen identities to steal over $395,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  The defendants illegally obtained SNAP benefits for themselves, and then cashed them at stores they owned in several Georgia communities.

“These defendants subverted the SNAP program to line their own pockets and also used hundreds of stolen identities to commit their crimes,” said U.S. Attorney John Horn. “They used the SNAP system as an ATM for their personal gain, diverting critical benefits that help those who need assistance in our communities.”

“The United States Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General- Investigations, actively investigates allegations of Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) fraud.  These defendants stole unsuspecting people’s identities, used those identities to fraudulently acquire EBT cards, and misused thousands of dollars worth of SNAP benefits to enrich themselves at the expense of American taxpayers.  Collectively, this type of fraudulent activity undermines this vital program by misdirecting millions of dollars of taxpayer funds from the purposes they were intended,” said Karen Citizen-Wilcox, Special Agent-in-Charge, USDA-OIG.  “We would like to thank U.S. Attorney’s Office for aggressively prosecuting perpetrators of fraud and sending a strong message that illegally profiting by defrauding USDA programs will not be tolerated.”

“This investigation was a great example of partnership and cooperation between our Department and federal authorities,” said Georgia Department of Human Services Commissioner Robyn A. Crittenden. “DHS has zero tolerance for fraud, waste and abuse in the programs it administers. After internal efforts to detect fraud, DHS was able to work with the U.S. District Attorney’s Office in bringing these individuals to justice. Georgia’s most vulnerable citizens need these valuable resources, and we are committed to ensuring the integrity of SNAP in Georgia.”

According to U.S. Attorney Horn, the charges and other information presented in court: From July 2014 through October 2015, Jonathan and Stephanie Dupiton owned and operated two convenience stores in Cobb County, Georgia; J. Good Groceries in Mableton, and Stephanie’s Groceries in Austell. The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service manages and funds SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, with the purpose of alleviating hunger and malnutrition among low-income families. The Georgia Department of Human Services (DHS) administers the SNAP program.

The defendants used stolen identities to apply for SNAP benefits instead of accepting SNAP benefits from qualified recipients to purchase food. These SNAP benefits were loaded on EBT cards, which are similar to debit cards. The defendants directed DHS to mail hundreds of EBT cards to addresses they controlled. The Dupitons then collected and swiped the fraudulent SNAP cards at their convenience stores. Over $800,000 in SNAP payments were deposited in the defendants’ bank accounts. DHS and USDA were able to link $395,000 of those funds to 321 fraudulent SNAP accounts.

Jonathan Dupiton, 28, of Atlanta, Georgia, was sentenced to three years, nine months in prison, and Stephanie Dupiton, 24, also of Atlanta, Georgia, was sentenced to six months in prison. Both defendants were also sentenced to three years of supervised release, a special assessment of $100, and ordered to pay $395,388.01 in restitution. Both defendants were convicted of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud in April 2017, after pleading guilty to these charges. Jonathan Dupiton was also convicted of aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory two-year consecutive sentence.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General and the Georgia Department of Human Services investigated this case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Brown prosecuted the case.

For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov<mailto:USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov> or (404) 581-6016.  The Internet address for the home page for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia Atlanta Division is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.

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