May 02 (COLUMBUS, Ga.) - Michael J. Moore, United States Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, announced that Mark C. Simpson, 51, of Lake Park, Georgia, and Stuart C. Cole, age 59, of St. Petersburg Beach, Florida, were sentenced on May 1, 2014 for conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering in one case, and Mr. Simpson was sentenced for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and crack cocaine in a separate case. Mr. Simpson was sentenced to 160 months in federal prison on each of the three counts, to be served concurrently. Mr. Cole received a sentence of 188 months in federal prison. Mr. Cole’s imprisonment was ordered to be served following the completion of a federal sentence he is currently serving for a drug distribution conviction in the Southern District of Texas. The sentences were handed down by U.S. District Court Judge J. Louis Sands in Albany, Georgia. A District Court Judge also ordered that a later hearing will be set within 90 days to address the issue of restitution for the victims of the fraud conspiracy.
Mr. Simpson had entered a plea of guilty to the charges on January 22, 2014. Mr. Cole entered a plea of guilty to the fraud and money laundering charges on January 17, 2014 in Valdosta, Georgia. As a part of his plea the pair admitted that from September 2007 through August 2009, they, and others conspired to operate a fraudulent private child support collection business in Lake Park, Georgia, and in other locations, known as Child Support Services of Atlanta and Child Support Services. Mr. Simpson, Mr. Cole and their associates defrauded custodial parents who were to receive child support payments by inducing them to sign collection agreements with their company and offering to assist them in collecting child support payments from non-custodial parents, claiming that all fees connected with the collections would be the responsibility of the non-custodial parent. They would then use fraud, deception and coercion to get non-custodial parents and their employers to send funds for “child support” to their business. Only a portion of the funds was ever given to the parents for the use of the children. The remainder was retained by Mr. Simpson, Mr. Cole and their associates to fund their lifestyles including leases of homes, cars and boats. The conspiracy collected more than $2.3 million and retained approximately $1.2 million. Additionally, they admitted to laundering the collected funds through bank accounts including an account for a corporation, purported to be a church, as “love gifts”.
In a separate case, Mr. Simpson admitted to conspiring with a number of other individuals, including Cole, between 2007 and October 21, 2011, to distribute cocaine in Georgia. Simpson was stopped on I-85 in Troup County, Georgia on December 15, 2010, carrying approximately 13 kilograms of cocaine in furtherance of the conspiracy. The drugs were found in a hidden compartment around the transmission of the vehicle he was driving, which had Texas tags and had crossed the border into Mexico as recently as the day before the stop. The Defendant and the Government stipulated that Mr. Simpson possessed with intent to distribute between 15 and 50 kilograms of cocaine hydrochloride as a part of the drug distribution conspiracy.
Harry S. Sommers, the Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division stated, “Drug traffickers who distribute illegal and dangerous drugs are a true menace to society. These crack distributors have now been removed from the streets, largely because of the true spirit of cooperation that exists between all of the law enforcement agencies involved.”
U.S. Attorney Michael Moore said, “Mr. Simpson and Mr. Cole took advantage of victims who needed help the most. These were parents trying to raise children on their own and having to do it without the financial support these children were due from parents who were not living up to their financial obligations. On the one hand, Mr. Simpson and Mr. Cole offered hope to the custodial parents, and then with the other hand, they snatched the money that they were counting on to support their children away from them. While Mr. Simpson was taking money meant for children, he was also involved in putting cocaine on the street. At least while these gentlemen are in federal prison, they won’t be able to prey on their communities.”
“The cooperation of state and federal officials in this case resulted in bringing to an end the despicable activities of these defendants, who caused virtually incalculable harm to many of our citizens who could least afford to be victimized. I am especially proud of the work of Investigator Calvin Thomas of the Governor’s Office of Consumer Protection and I congratulate the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Middle District of Georgia for initiating a successful prosecution and bringing these criminals to justice,” said John D. Sours, Administrator, Georgia Governor’s Office of Consumer Protection.
“Mr. Cole and Mr. Simpson exploited unsuspecting individuals and lined their pockets with money gained through deception and lies,” stated Special Agent in Charge, Veronica F. Hyman-Pillot. “The sentence today is a vital element in maintaining public confidence that these individuals and others who commit similar crimes will be held accountable.”
“U.S. Postal Inspectors have protected the sanctity of the U.S. mails for over 200 years. Working closely with our law enforcement partners, we were persistent in our investigative efforts to bring to justice those responsible for victimizing the families in this particular case. The use of U.S. mail to defraud the American public cannot and will not be tolerated,” said Keith A. Fixel, Inspector in Charge, Charlotte Division.
The money and wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations, United States Postal Inspection Service and the Georgia Governor’s Office of Consumer Protection. Assistant United States Attorney Robert D. McCullers is handling that prosecution for the Government. The drug conspiracy case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Leah E. McEwen is handling that prosecution for the government.