The United States Attorney’s Office announced that during a federal court session in Billings, on August 23, 2012, before Chief U.S. District Judge Richard F. Cebull, Ashley Ann Lamere, a 32-year-old resident of Billings, pled guilty to wire fraud and bribery. Sentencing has been set for November 28, 2012. She is currently detained.
In an Offer of Proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica T. Fehr, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:
Lamere, aka Ashley Ann Thompson, operated numerous office supply companies and/or used various company names to defraud the United States military through various schemes, to include the following: billing government credit cards without authorization; billing more than was authorized on government credit cards; and bribing government officials to purchase additional items with cash and gift cards. Lamere operated and/or used the following companies to accomplish her scheme: Base Suppliers Inc., Federal Office Supply, Fresh, Government Cartridge Supply, Impac Office Supply, Red Dog Toner, Rimrock Office Supply, Servumart, and Yellowstone Office Supply. Lamere operated the previously described companies out of two Billings addresses between 2005 and 2010. The companies focused on selling office supplies to government agencies, primarily the military, through telemarketing.
To accomplish the scheme to defraud, Lamere and her employees gave military procurement personnel Western Union and Money Gram wires, gift cards, and cash to either induce them into buying office supplies through the companies and/or as a gratuitous gift after the order was placed. Lamere and her employees sent the military procurement personnel the wires, cards, and cash via Federal Express packages, often sent to the procurement personnel’s personal address. Even after Lamere and her employees were told by procurement personnel that they were not allowed to accept gifts over approximately $20, Lamere and her staff continued to offer and provide amounts far in excess of $20 to military members.
Once military personnel were promised wires, cash, and gift cards, Lamere and her employees often did not send all the agreed upon supplies. At times, no supplies at all were sent by Lamere and her employees to fulfill the individual orders. Also, after obtaining a government purchase card (GPC) number from a military member, Lamere and her employees made unauthorized charges on the GPC cards.
Military procurement personnel can authorize, without a supervising officer’s approval, charges under $3,000. In an effort to circumvent the military procurement rules and regulations Lamere set up numerous companies so more than $3,000 could be ordered from the various companies on any given day. Lamere went so far as to provide guidance to military procurement personnel to assist them in avoiding detection from auditing authorities.
A total of 24 government procurement professionals were interviewed by law enforcement. Of the 24 interviewed, 17 individuals admitted receiving cash and/or gift cards in exchange for placing supply orders with the subject companies. In addition law enforcement used a cooperating witness and an undercover agent to record and monitor Lamere and her business practices. Both individuals’ contacts with Lamere supported the claims that Lamere bribed government procurement officers and billed unapproved charges to GPC cards. Specifically, the investigation uncovered that on or about March 12, 2010, at Billings, Lamere directly offered cash to E.C., a member of the United States Navy responsible for obtaining supplies on behalf of his/her unit, if he/she continued to purchase unnecessary office supplies from Lamere’s companies. On March 15, 2010, at Billings, Lamere caused to be transmitted by means of wire communication in interstate commerce a Money Gram wire transfer of $300 from Lamere, in Billings, to E.C. in Jacksonville, Florida, to pay the bribe offered on March 12, 2010.
From 2008 to 2010, Lamere obtained more than $1 million in purchases from credit cards through her various companies. Lamere’s business expenses, as deduced from her bank records, were less than $100,000 during the same time period.
Lamere faces possible penalties of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and three years’ supervised release.
The investigation was a cooperative effort between the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Navy Criminal Investigation Service, General Services Administration-Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of Defense-Office of Inspector General, Criminal Investigation Division of the Internal Revenue Service, Air Force Criminal Investigation Division, and the Army Criminal Investigation Division.