WASHINGTON - A federal jury in Dallas has ordered a former Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. employee and two contractors to pay $13.5 million for defrauding the regulator of $81,000.
The jury on Feb. 1 found that Jeff Thompson and Jerry Moore filed 908 bills for management services that they did not provide. The jury also found that former FDIC account officer Joseph Moreland approved the bills even though he knew they were fraudulent.
They are responsible for $13.5 million in penalties and $243,000 in civil damages.
Mr. Moreland's attorney, David Whaley, did not return a call for comment. Mr. Thompson and Mr. Moore, who represented themselves during the three-week trial, could not be reached for comment.
Fraud charges against FDIC contractors are remarkably uncommon, said Ira Parker, a former FDIC assistant general counsel now with Alston & Bird law firm.
"You can really count on your hands the number of cases like that," Mr. Parker said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Katherine McGovern said the government uncovered the plot once new FDIC employees joined the regulator's Dallas office in the early 1990s and began questioning some of the payments that Mr. Moreland authorized for Southwest Management and Development Inc., a company the other two defendants owned.
The FDIC had contracted Southwest Management to provide routine maintenance and upkeep on scores of buildings that the agency acquired from failed banks and thrifts. Southwest Management was supposed to hire subcontractors, who would perform the work. Then the company would bill the FDIC for the subcontractor's costs and for a management fee of about 10% of the bill.
But, Ms. McGovern said that Mr. Thompson and Mr. Moore often submitted bills for work they claimed to have completed but never did.
She said forensic accountants reviewed every invoice Southwest Management submitted, finding the false charges that were interspersed with legitimate bills.
"It was not easy," Ms. McGovern said. "They were very clever."
She said the government also proved that Mr. Thompson and Mr. Moore compensated Mr. Moreland for his role in the scheme.
"We got their checking accounts and we could see payments that were made to Joe Moreland directly," she said.
Laurence A. Froehlich, counsel to the FDIC's inspector general, said the agency has improved its oversight activities since the Southwest Management case first surfaced.
"They have been very successful at plugging the leak," Mr. Froehlich said, noting that the FDIC tightened standards contractors must meet and adopted improved contractor certification rules.
The government formally charged the three with violating the False Claims Act and the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act.