Chief check casher in $5M DSS scheme gets 8 years
By MEG KINNARD
Associated Press Writer
COLUMBIA, S.C. The man federal authorities have called the ringleader of a scheme to defraud the South Carolina social services agency out of more than $5 million was sentenced Wednesday to eight years in prison.
Jonathan Moses, 42, was sentenced in federal court in Columbia, U.S. Attorney Walt Wilkins said.
About two dozen people have been accused of helping former Department of Social Services finance director Paul Moore embezzle the money between May 2004 and October 2008, and many have pleaded guilty.
Prosecutors have said Moses recruited people to cash the checks and gave their names to Moore, who then would have fraudulent checks made out to the recruits, for about $7,000 each. Prosecutors say the recruits then cashed the checks, kept a portion of the money and gave the rest back to Moses and Moore.
In all, Wilkins has said he suspects hundreds were recruited to cash the checks.
In June, Moses pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, theft of federal program funds and money laundering. He had faced up to 10 years in prison, but prosecutors had asked for a lesser sentence – about five years – because Moses has helped identify other check cashers.
Instead, U.S. District Judge Cameron McGowan Currie sentenced him to eight years.
“Stealing money from DSS that could have been used to help the needy and underprivileged is reprehensible,” Wilkins said. “These guilty pleas affirm our office’s commitment to prosecute those who illegally line their pockets with public dollars.”
Moses’ attorney, Johnny Gasser, declined to comment on his client’s sentence but did say the defense team may ask for a new one because of his “extensive and extraordinary cooperation in this matter.”
On Wednesday, Wilkins said Moses admitted to cashing six fraudulent DSS checks and to recruiting about 15 others, who then recruited hundreds of other check-cashers.
Moore is charged with conspiracy, mail fraud and wire fraud. Authorities say he requested about 750 checks cut from Treasury Department funds from 2004 to 2008, although Moore has admitted to distributing only 200 checks, for a total of $1.3 million, saying he spent money he got back on alcohol, gambling and strippers.
But prosecutors say a Social Services audit showed $5.5 million missing from the agency – money they say Moore took, although only $5.2 million of that money was actually cashed.
Moore has pleaded not guilty, but his attorney has said Moore is planning to change his plea once he can agree with prosecutors on the amount taken from the agency. He is set to have a pretrial conference next month.