Columbia Man Pleads Guilty to Theft from General Motors Spring Hill Facility and Filing a False Tax Return
|U.S. Attorney’s Office December 05, 2013|
Anthony Praino, 51, of Columbia, Tennessee, pleaded guilty yesterday in U.S. District Court to interstate transportation of stolen property and filing a false tax return, announced David Rivera, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee. The charges stemmed from a joint investigation conducted by the Maury County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI, and the IRS-Criminal Investigation, which revealed that in 2011 and 2012, Praino stole nearly a million dollars' worth of equipment from the General Motors (GM) Spring Hill, Tennessee plant. Plaino then failed to disclose to the IRS the $145,000 profit he received from the sale of the stolen equipment.
"Praino stole from his employer and cheated on his taxes in a manner that will always be addressed by the United States Attorney’s Office and its local, state, and federal law enforcement partners," said U.S. Attorney Rivera. "What was accomplished in this case illustrates the commitment of local and federal law enforcement agencies, working together to bring to justice those placed in a position of trust who choose to commit fraud at a significant cost to their employers and to the public."
Testimony presented at the guilty plea hearing before District Judge Todd Campbell established that in 2011, GM investigators discovered that a significant amount of expensive equipment was missing from their Spring Hill plant, where Praino was employed as a fork lift operator. Praino emerged as the prime suspect when GM investigators identified some missing equipment being advertised for sale on eBay; investigators then clandestinely purchased it.
When the equipment was delivered to them, the return address for the sender was determined to be Praino’s. GM referred the matter to the Maury Count Sheriff’s Office, which in turn alerted the FBI and the IRS, given the value and volume of the stolen property.
In April 2012, while agents were conducting surveillance, they observed Praino depositing a large parcel for delivery by a commercial shipping company. Agents quickly determined that the package contained expensive, stolen GM equipment and was to be delivered to Thailand. Agents obtained and executed a search warrant for Praino’s home in Columbia, Tennessee, and found more equipment that had been stolen from the Spring Hill GM facility, which was worth over $500,000.
Follow-up investigation disclosed that Praino had received more than $145,000 from selling the stolen GM equipment, which he failed to disclose when filing his tax return. He owed but failed to pay about $48,000 in additional income tax for that income, which constituted a second separate federal crime. Praino faces a maximum of 13 years in prison and an order of restitution.
"IRS-Criminal Investigation special agents have both law enforcement and financial investigative expertise, which makes them uniquely qualified to assist state and federal law enforcement agencies with these types of investigations by following the money," added Christopher A. Henry, Special Agent in Charge of the IRS Nashville Field Office. "Oftentimes, in addition to the initial scheme to defraud, federal tax laws are also violated, which can lead to additional jail time. We are proud to work with our law enforcement and prosecutorial partners at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI, and the Maury County Sheriff’s Office to obtain today’s result and hold those responsible accountable for their actions."
"Today’s guilty plea is a prime example of how law enforcement from different agencies and departments can pool their collective operational and investigative efforts and resources to bring the most egregious financial crimes facilitators to justice in all of our communities. The thefts from the General Motors Spring Hill Plant not only represent thefts from General Motors, but from each and every American taxpayer as well," said A. Todd McCall, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Memphis Division. "The FBI is proud to work investigations such as this alongside the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the IRS-Criminal Investigation Division, and the Maury County Sheriff’s Office to bring these types of criminal violators to justice
The case was investigated by the FBI, the IRS-Criminal Investigation, and the Maury County Sheriff’s Department. The government was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Hilliard Hester.