U.S. Dist. Chief Judge John C. Coughenour sentenced Bonifacio Garcia June 30 to thirty months’ imprisonment for crimes relating to his embezzlement of over $860,000 from the U.S. Dep’t of Labor’s Office of Worker’s Compensation in Seattle.
Garcia had been a DOL employee in Seattle for about 20 years, until Aug. 1998. Among Garcia’s responsibilities were processing and computing federal disability benefits for qualified claimants. He was also responsible for transferring, via DOL’s computer network, authorizations for supplemental (lump sum) disability payments to claimants who were owed money by the OWCP.
Garcia was only one of two people at the Seattle office with the authority to transmit these lump sum authorizations. Once DOL in Washington, D.C., received the authorization, it would be forwarded to the Dep’t of Treasury, which would direct-deposit the money into the bank account designated on the original authorization.
According to court documents, starting in Sept. 1994, Garcia began preparing and transmitting to DOL fraudulent authorizations for supplemental lump sum disability payments. These authorizations all listed legitimate federal disability recipients, but designated that the lump sum payment be direct-deposited into Garcia’s own bank accounts. Reportedly, Garcia concealed the embezzlements by supposedly “canceling” the lump sum payment authorizations on the computer system. However, the so-called “cancellations” were entered only on the Seattle OWCP office’s computer database. They did not cancel the payment authorizations already transmitted to Washington D.C. The money, in all cases, was deposited into one of Garcia’s own bank accounts by the Treasury. Garcia carried on this scheme for almost four years, and embezzled $861,508.91.
The scheme ended in July 1998, when a random audit at the OWCP office uncovered the unusual number of cancellations entered into the database by Garcia. DOL officials initiated a full-scale investigation, Garcia resigned from his position, and in Oct. 1998, fled to the Philippines. He remained there until his arrest by local police officers, accompanied by the FBI, on Jan. 18, 2000. After being transported back to Seattle to face charges, Garcia pled guilty on Mar.14, 2000 to three counts: theft of government property, wire fraud, and filing a false income tax return. In the plea, Garcia admitted to the total loss of $861,508.91; reportedly, Garcia spent or gambled away, all of the money.
In addition to the prison sentence, Coughenour imposed a three year’s of supervised release, and ordered Garcia to pay restitution in the amount of $861,508.91. [USAO, W.D. Wash., Media Release 6/30/00]