Utah Man Found Guilty of Defrauding Organic Produce Distributor Out of $5.8 Million

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Mon. May 20th, 2024 - by Anne Allen

LOS ANGELES, CA - A recent announcement from the United States Attorney's Office, Central District of California revealed that a man in Utah has been found guilty of participating in a scheme that ultimately defrauded a family-owned organic produce distributor out of $5.8 million. 

The Justice Department announced that Kevin Scott Horton of Saratoga Springs, Utah, was found guilty by a jury of seven counts of mail fraud late Monday, May 13.

Direct From the U.S. Attorney's Office: 

According to evidence presented at a nine-day trial, from February 2000 to April 2018, Horton schemed with Tony Anhtuan Rawlings, 57, of Garden Grove, the information technology (IT) director at Melissa’s World Variety Produce, a Vernon-based company, to defraud Melissa’s out of its money through the approval of payment of invoices for IT services that were never provided.

In February 2000, Horton created a shell company called Creative Network Solutions (CNS), whose purpose was to send fraudulent bills to its sole client, Melissa’s. In consultation with Rawlings, Horton created two fictitious invoices per month, in which CNS billed Melissa’s for IT services that CNS did not provide, for approximately 18 years, through February 2018.

Horton provided the fictitious invoices to Rawlings, who approved them, vouched for their operational necessity, and then forwarded them to a Melissa’s executive who was asked to have Melissa’s pay CNS the amounts listed on the sham invoices.

Horton and Rawlings falsely represented to Melissa’s executives that CNS provided IT services to Melissa’s. In fact, CNS never provided services to Melissa’s or any other company, and by using CNS, deceived and concealed from Melissa’s that CNS was affiliated with one of their own employees.

Horton, along with Rawlings, caused Melissa’s to send CNS payment in the form of checks mailed through the U.S. Mail to a post office box to which Horton had sole access. Horton deposited the checks he received through the scheme into a bank account that he exclusively controlled. Horton then funneled Rawlings a portion of the money that Melissa’s paid to CNS, in the form of checks sent via U.S. Mail to addresses where Rawlings lived.

In total, Horton, along with Rawlings, caused Melissa’s to pay CNS approximately $5,852,604 because of the fictitious invoices.

Read more about the verdict and upcoming sentencing hearings here.

And keep reading ANUK for more fresh produce news.