Three Defendants Sentenced for Wire Fraud Conspiracy
Women Hired Man to Stage Assault in Attempt to Influence Sexual Harassment Lawsuit
|U.S. Attorney’s Office November 20, 2009|
KANSAS CITY, MO—Matt J. Whitworth, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that three defendants were sentenced in federal court today for their role in a wire fraud conspiracy related to a scheme between two women and a man hired to physically and sexually assault them. The women were hoping to force a higher settlement of their sexual harassment lawsuit against a former employer.
Gordon F. Reabe, Jr., 52, of Lee’s Summit, Mo., Julie R. Bernet, 40, of Bucyrus, Kan., and Lindsey D. Crawford, 24, of Kansas City, Mo., were sentenced in separate hearings before U.S. District Judge Ortrie D. Smith. Reabe was sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison without parole. Bernet was sentenced to serve five months in a residential reentry center followed by five months of home confinement. Crawford was sentenced to three years of probation. Each of the defendants has paid $5,259 in restitution to the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department for the costs it incurred during the investigation of this case.
Each of the three defendants pleaded guilty to their roles in the conspiracy. Bernet and Crawford admitted that they agreed to pay Reabe $100,000 to physically assault both of them and to sexually assault Crawford. The assault occurred on Nov. 25, 2008, in the garage at Crawford’s residence. Afterward, Bernet and Crawford made false reports to law enforcement authorities concerning the staged assault, falsely claiming to have been assaulted by two unknown masked men. As a result, law enforcement authorities spent a substantial amount of time and money investigating the nonexistent crime.
The purpose of the conspiracy was to fraudulently increase damages in the sexual harassment lawsuit filed by Bernet and Crawford against their former employer, Mercedes-Benz of Kansas City, as well as Soave Automotive Group, Inc., T.E.N. Investments, Inc., and Soave Enterprises, LLC. By fraudulently staging an assault and linking the staged assault to those companies, Bernet and Crawford hoped that the settlement value or potential damages awarded by a jury in the sexual harassment lawsuit would substantially increase. They planned to compensate Reabe by paying him part of the money fraudulently obtained from the companies.
Bernet met with Reabe at Toby Keith’s Bar in Harrah’s Casino on Dec. 12, 2008, to discuss a plan to connect the staged assault to the victim companies. They agreed on a plan to have someone call Bernet from Aristocrat Motors (where Mercedes-Benz of Kansas city is located); she would then call the police to make a false report that her life had been threatened. The purpose of the false report would be to redirect the criminal investigation and to link the assault to the parties of the sexual harassment lawsuit.
A Lee’s Summit man was hired to make the phone call from Aristocrat Motors on Dec. 13, 2008. However, instead of using the dealership’s phone, he used his own cell phone to make the call to Bernet. Bernet then called a Kansas City police officer and falsely claimed that her life had been threatened in a telephone call from an unknown male. The FBI traced the telephone number to the man’s cell phone, and he told investigators that Reabe had hired him to make the phone call.
This case was prosecuted by U.S. Attorney Matt J. Whitworth and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kate Mahoney. It was investigated by the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.