Business Owner Pleads Guilty to Scheme to Embezzle $1.3 Million from State Fund
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Missouri business owner pleaded guilty in federal court today to charges related to his scheme to embezzle more than $1.3 million from the Missouri Petroleum Storage Tank Insurance Fund.
Robert L. Fine, II, 52, of Lenexa, Kan., waived his right to a grand jury and pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Matt J. Whitworth to a federal information that charges him with one count of mail fraud and one count of money laundering.
Under the terms of today’s plea agreement, Fine must pay $1,505,514 in restitution to the Petroleum Storage Tank Insurance Fund, which includes the total amount of the fraud and related costs. Fine paid $350,000 in restitution to the fund today, and must pay the balance owed within approximately 60 days.
Fine was the owner and sole employee of FINEnvironmental, Inc., a Missouri corporation that he operated from an office in his residence. FINEnvironmental performed environmental services for property owners who used or operated a petroleum storage tank.
In 1989, the Missouri General Assembly created the Petroleum Storage Tank Insurance Fund (PSTIF) in response to federal legislation requiring owners and operators of underground storage tanks to have the financial resources available to pay for cleanup of spills or leaks from their tanks. The PSTIF was funded by a fee assessed to petroleum companies on each load of petroleum that is transported into Missouri and by annual fees charged to the owners and operators for insurance coverage.
Fine utilized subcontractors to perform his environmental services, and those subcontractors submitted invoices to Fine for the work they performed. From August 2002 to February 2012, Fine created false invoices purporting to be from one of his subcontractors and inflated the amount of the invoices. Fine mailed the fraudulent invoices to the PSTIF for payment and, over a nearly 10-year period, obtained $924,236 in excess payments from the PSTIF.
Fine also admitted that he obtained additional funds from the PSTIF by fraudulently submitting invoices for an additional groundwater monitoring trip when only one was made, totaling $326,978. The plea agreement cites an additional $66,243 in losses that resulted from Fine’s fraudulent activity.
The total amount of the fraud committed by Fine on the PSTIF is $1,317,469.
Under federal statutes, Fine is subject to a sentence of up to 30 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $500,000 and an order of restitution. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.This case is being prosecuted by Supervisory Assistant U.S. Attorney Lawrence E. Miller. It was investigated by the FBI, IRS-Criminal Investigation, the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the Cole County, Mo., Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and the Missouri Petroleum Storage Tank Insurance Fund.