Jury Convicts Makers of OXYwater of Wire Fraud, Money Laundering, Tax Crimes
COLUMBUS, OH—A federal jury convicted Preston J. Harrison, 43, of Lewis Center, Ohio, and his business partner, Thomas E. Jackson, 40, of Powell, Ohio, of defrauding their company’s investors and diverting investors’ funds for their own personal use. Preston Harrison and his wife, Lovena E. Harrison, 42, were also both convicted of conspiracy to defraud the United States and filing a false income tax return, and Lovena Harrison was convicted of structuring financial transactions to evade currency reporting requirements.
Carter M. Stewart, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Caroline D. Ciraolo, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Tax Division, Kathy Enstrom, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), and Angela L. Byers, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Cincinnati Field Division, announced the verdict reached today, which was returned following a trial that began on March 16 before U.S. District Judge Gregory L. Frost.
According to court testimony, Jackson and Preston Harrison operated Westerville, Ohio-based Imperial Integrated Health Research and Development, LLC, and developed a product called OXYwater, a beverage that promoters claimed was an all-natural, vitamin-enhanced sports drink that contained added oxygen for improved physical performance.
The defendants engaged in a scheme to deceive the investors in their company about the structure, composition, finances, sales and profits of OXYwater in order to make the company appear to be a lucrative and profitable financial investment. Jackson and Preston Harrison produced and sent false and fraudulent documents intended to deceive investors, the ultimate purpose of such false statements being for Jackson and Preston Harrison to obtain money invested in the company. They then misappropriated that money for their own personal use and household expenditures including the purchase of jewelry, a Cadillac Escalade, a BMW, weapons, clothing, home improvements, and a swimming pool.
“This case was about the millions of dollars that the defendants stole from investors to fuel their lavish lifestyle,” Assistant United States Attorney Jessica Kim told the court.
Jackson and Preston Harrison misappropriated approximately $2 million of the investors’ funds between August 2010 and spring 2013. The defendants’ scheme caused investors to suffer substantial losses when the corporation was forced to declare bankruptcy with no assets. As a result of the defendants’ conduct, investors lost approximately $9 million.
Jackson and Preston Harrison were each convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Jackson was convicted of 8 counts of wire fraud, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, and 12 counts of money laundering, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Preston Harrison was convicted of 12 counts of money laundering, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Preston and Lovena Harrison were both convicted of conspiracy to defraud the United States and with filing a false tax return. Preston Harrison misappropriated approximately $1.1 million in 2011 from his company, which he and his wife, Lovena Harrison, placed in an account in the name of her daycare business. They used the money for personal expenses, and did not report the money as income on their 2011 income tax return. Lovena Harrison was also convicted of one count of structuring financial transactions to evade currency reporting requirements. Conspiracy to defraud the United States and structuring financial transactions to evade currency reporting requirements are each crimes punishable up to five years in prison, and filing a false tax return is punishable by up to three years in prison.
Preston Harrison and Jackson also face potential forfeiture of $1.1 million, including two vehicles, eight weapons, cash and the contents of a bank account.
All three were indicted by a grand jury on May 20, 2014.
U.S. Attorney Stewart and Acting Assistant Attorney General Ciraolo commended the cooperative investigation by the IRS-CI and FBI, as well as Assistant United States Attorney Jessica Kim and U.S. Department of Justice Tax Division Trial Attorneys Andrew Young and Jason Scheff, who prosecuted the case.
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