CHARLESTON, WV—U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin today announced that two more individuals pleaded guilty in federal court in a scheme to submit fraudulent claims for power surge damage to American Electric Power Service Corporation, Inc. (“AEP”). Mark Ingram, 42, and Crystal Ingram, 32 both of Nitro, West Virginia, pleaded guilty to the felony offense of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.
The defendants admitted that they colluded with former AEP property damage claims adjuster Deborah Farmer to unlawfully obtain money from AEP by submitting fraudulent claims for power surge damage. Farmer, 47, formerly of Winfield, pleaded guilty in April to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Farmer admitted that she arranged the scheme and conspired with other individuals to unlawfully obtain money from the power company by submitting the fraudulent claims. Seven other co-defendants have also previously pleaded guilty to their role in the scheme and likewise await sentencing.
A two-year investigation revealed that false claims were filed with AEP related to power surge damage to homes. Mr. Ingram and Mrs. Ingram each admitted that they joined the conspiracy to commit mail fraud when they filed fraudulent claims and received the fraudulent checks through the mail. The defendants then cashed the checks, took a portion of the payoff and gave the remaining proceeds back to Ms. Farmer or other defendants.
Mr. and Mrs. Ingram admitted that they claimed a total of four fraudulent checks for a total of $53,000. Ms. Ingram also admitted to introducing three other people to Ms. Farmer so that they could file fraudulent checks with AEP. Other co-defendants involved in the conspiracy admitted to receiving checks ranging from $4,000 to as much as $19,000 per fraudulent claim at various times between March 2009 and March 2010.
A total of 57 fraudulent claims were filed resulting in a loss to AEP of approximately $598,485.
Mr. and Mrs. Ingram each face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine when they are sentenced on September 18, 2012 by United States District Judge John T. Copenhaver, Jr. All defendants agreed to restitution based on the total number of claims checks they cashed. The court will fix the final amount of restitution owed by each defendant at sentencing.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States Postal Inspection Service, and West Virginia State Police are handling the investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Erik S. Goes is in charge of the prosecution.