Called in damaged signs after hours, called in signs not damaged, had friends, relatives call in damaged signs to generate callouts
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Six employees of the Kansas City, Missouri, public works department have pleaded guilty to their roles in a nearly three-year-long conspiracy to collect $58,000 in fraudulent overtime pay.
Prentis M. Rayford, 37, Eric McKamey, 47, and Edward Lee Ellingburg, 48, all of Kansas City, Missouri, pleaded guilty Wednesday in separate appearances before U.S. District Judge Brian C. Wimes to participating in a conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Co-defendants Paul Myers, 62, Kenneth Gethers, 34, and Julio Prospero, 49, all of Kansas City, Missouri, have also pleaded guilty to their roles in the wire fraud conspiracy.
All of the defendants were employees of the city of Kansas City, in the Public Works Sign Division. The federal indictment alleges they participated in a conspiracy from January 2013 to Nov. 30, 2016, to receive more than $58,000 in overtime pay as a result of material false and fraudulent representations.
Among their responsibilities, these city employees replaced and repaired traffic signs that were missing or damaged. Certain signs, like stop signs, yield signs, one-way signs, and do not enter signs, are considered essential signs. The public can report a problem with an essential sign by calling the traffic operations dispatch or the 311 Action Center. When those reports are made after hours or on weekends, the city’s Public Works Sign Division calls in employees who are willing to work overtime. When an employee is called back after regular working hours or on the weekend, a minimum overtime of four hours is earned, regardless of how long it takes to resolve the issue. Overtime pay is time-and-a-half of the employee’s usual pay.
The defendants admitted they called in damaged signs after hours, called in signs that were not damaged, and had friends and relatives call in reportedly damaged signs, all in order to generate callouts for themselves and other employees. Conspirators submitted timesheets and work orders for callouts stating that they went to the location of the damaged sign and fixed it, when in fact they did not. They also submitted timesheets and work orders for callouts when signs were actually damaged, but were not fixed until the following normal workday.
Four of the defendants – Rayford, McKamey, Ellingburg, and Prospero – acquired a Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone application, which disguised their phone number when they called the 311 Action Center.
A supervisor at the Public Works Sign Division suspected in the summer of 2016 that employees were fraudulently creating and claiming overtime for callouts which were unnecessary or even false. Management arranged to be contacted when calls regarding downed signs were made to the 311 Action Center or traffic operations dispatch. Employees or their relatives often made the calls regarding downed signs themselves. Managers would go to the scene, usually before the employee, and photograph the sign. Often all the signs were up. Occasionally, a sign was down but was not repaired until the following workday. Managers tracked the GPS on work trucks, the indictment says, and often found that the trucks did not go to the location of the supposedly downed sign. Sometimes GPS indicated the trucks went to the location but either did not stop or did not stop long enough to repair a sign.
The internal investigation lasted from Aug. 23, 2016, to Nov. 13, 2016. During that time, approximately 75 percent of all callouts were found to be fraudulent. The city then reported its findings to the FBI for further investigation.
Rayford admitted he submitted work orders that falsely claimed he maintained or installed stop signs on five occasions. McKamey admitted he submitted work orders that falsely claimed he maintained or installed stop signs on 10 occasions. Ellingburg admitted he submitted work orders that falsely claimed he maintained or installed stop signs on three occasions. Myers admitted he submitted work orders that falsely claimed he maintained or installed stop signs on four occasions. Gethers admitted he submitted work orders that falsely claimed he maintained or installed stop signs on five occasions. Prospero admitted he submitted work orders that falsely claimed he maintained or installed stop signs on four occasions. Under the terms of their plea agreements, each defendant must forfeit to the government any proceeds he obtained from the conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Under federal statutes, each of the defendants is subject to a sentence of up to five years in federal prison without parole. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors. Sentencing hearings will be scheduled after the completion of presentence investigations by the United States Probation Office.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kate Mahoney and Rudolph R. Rhodes IV. It was investigated by the FBI and the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department.
–Roy Harryman photo/Kansas City