Federal Jury Convicts Former Chief Operations Officer for the National Center for the Employment of the Disabled
|U.S. Attorney’s Office October 18, 2010|
United States Attorney John E. Murphy announced that in El Paso this afternoon, a federal jury found former National Center for the Employment of the Disabled (NCED) Chief Operations Officer ERNESTO ALONZO LOPEZ, a.k.a. Ernie Lopez, guilty on federal charges related to embezzling millions of dollars in government program funds.
Jurors convicted Lopez on one count of conspiracy to make false statements and defraud the United States and one count of making false statements. The jury acquitted Lopez of the remaining 15 charges including conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, mail fraud, and wire fraud. Lopez, who faces up to five years in federal prison per count, is also subject to a $51,215,526.50 criminal forfeiture. Sentencing is scheduled for 9:00 a.m. on February 17, 2011, before U.S. District Judge Frank Montalvo.
Evidence presented during trial revealed that between November 2002 until March 2006, Lopez and former NCED CEO and President Robert Edward Jones conspired to lie to the Committee for Purchase from the Blind and Severely Disabled, falsely claiming NCED was in compliance with the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act (JWOD). Being in compliance with JWOD entitled NCED to receive no-bid contracts from government agencies. These no-bid contracts are generally set aside for not-for-profit organizations who employ blind or other severely handicapped individuals for not less than 75 percent of the man-hours of direct labor required for the production or provision of the goods or commodities required on the government contract. Based on the evidence presented at trial jurors found that NCED was not in compliance with the requirements and thus not qualified to obtain JWOD contracts.
Bob Jones and Patrick Woods have pled guilty to charges stemming from this investigation. Both are awaiting sentencing.
This ongoing investigation is being conducted by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division-Major Fraud Unit; the General Services Administration-Office of the Inspector General (GSA-OIG); and, the United States Postal Service-Office of the Inspector General (USPS-OIG). The case is being prosecuted for the government by Assistant United States Attorneys William Lewis, Jr., and Steve Spitzer.