Wachovia VP charged with stealing $11 million from bank www.privateofficer.com
Terry Scott Welch led what seemed like a charmed life: a vice president position at Wachovia, a big house on Lake Norman with a pier, and glowing reviews from co-workers on his online resume.
But the image was built on years of criminal acts, at least according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. On Thursday, it accused Welch of leading a nine-year conspiracy in which he billed his employer for millions of dollars worth of home renovations, jet skis, golf carts, jewelry and other goods.
Scott Welch, 47, entered a plea agreement on Thursday that indicates he plans to plead guilty to at least some of the charges.
The government has asked for permission to seize his house in Mooresville, appraised by Iredell County at nearly $900,000. The IRS says he owes $1.7 million in unpaid taxes. He faces up to 35 years in prison and is on the hook for paying back millions to the bank.
All told, prosecutors say, Welch ran up $11.2 million worth of false bills for his employer.
Welch’s attorney, Andrew Murray, said his client “has accepted responsibility and looks forward to getting this behind him.”
Prosecutors also charged John Cousar Jr., a firefighter from Albemarle, and Delmar Dove, who ran a landscaping firm in Charlotte, in the filing. Cousar and Dove have also entered plea agreements.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Welch ran his scheme from about 2000 through November 2008, shortly after Wachovia announced it would be bought by Wells Fargo. Prosecutors didn’t say how the scheme was discovered.
Welch was a vice president in utility services at Wachovia, working from a distribution center in Charlotte. His responsibilities included paying the invoices submitted by contractors who worked for the bank.
Apparently, all of the men involved in the conspiracy knew Welch through business relationships, but they did not know one another.
Over the years, Cousar billed Wachovia for $5.9 million in “moving services,” according to the charges. Welch saw that the bills were paid, and in return, Cousar, now 47, footed about half the money to Welch.
The Attorney’s Office alleges Cousar “did not provide the services set forth in the invoices.” The prosecutors made similar allegations against Dove, who allegedly billed Wachovia for $1.2 million worth of “delivery services,” and gave about half the money to Welch.
Another person tied to the alleged scheme, Jerry Little, owned a forklift company in Cornelius. Around 2002, Welch approached him and arranged to purchase “items completely unrelated to the goods and services routinely provided by the Forklift Co.,” such as lawn mowers, golf carts, televisions, jet skis, gas grills and jewelry, according to charges filed in February.
Little made the purchases, had them shipped to Welch’s house, then billed Wachovia for “forklift rentals.” From 2002 to 2008, he billed Wachovia for $1.5 million. In February, he pleaded guilty to the charges and is awaiting sentencing. Little’s lawyer declined to comment Thursday.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office also told a similar story about a fifth, unindicted person identified as “R.O.,” the owner of a home-renovation company. Prosecutors say that from 2000 to 2006, R.O. submitted 104 invoices to Wachovia for a total of $2.6 million.
The invoices listed “services for Wachovia service center,” among other things, but the money was actually used for home remodeling and additions for Welch and his relatives, prosecutors say. According to court filings, the company also built a pier at Welch’s home on Paradise Peninsula.
A neighbor of Welch said his house often received deliveries, including palm trees shipped in every year. The family has two Hummers, she said, and rarely mingles with the neighbors. Their house, which is gated and shielded by shrubbery, is larger than most of the others on the street.
Welch, Cousar and Dove are scheduled to enter their pleas June 16. The three hearings are scheduled 15 minutes apart.
Cousar’s lawyer could not be reached. Dove’s lawyer, Jake Sussman, said the landscaper is “a committed husband, father and grandfather” who “admitted to his wrongdoing in this case the moment he was approached by government investigators.”
“He made poor decisions in his dealings with Scott Welch and, through Mr. Welch, with Wachovia, and understands the serious consequences to those decisions,” Sussman said.
Wachovia declined to comment, except to confirm that Welch no longer works for the bank.
Welch says on his online LinkedIn account that he left the bank in January as a vice president of sales and marketing, and that he had directed a work force of 500-plus people as the national director of fulfillment operations from 2001 to 2006. His profile also says he was a material specialist in the U.S. Air Force from 1981 to 1991 at Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, S.C. and at the N.C. National Guard in Charlotte.
His page is full of admiring recommendations – mostly from Wachovia underlings, who describe him as sharp, professional, honest, a team player and motivator. Wrote a client in 2007: “Scott is very creative in handling tough situations. As I like to say, Scott will always be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.”
On his Twitter account, Welch describes himself as “Christian, Business Leader / Consultant…” His last post, on May 9, is a link to a news story from earlier this year.
The headline is, “Wachovia Admits It Laundered Millions in Mexican Drug Cash.”