Couple Pleads Guilty to Defrauding DOL of $300,000

Siria M. Toala of Daytona Beach, Fla., pled guilty Dec. 5 to one count of aiding and abetting the theft of government property. Toala’s husband, Ricardo Perez, also pleaded guilty to a one count information charging him with aiding and abetting the making of false claims. The violations occurred between July 1999 and Mar. 2000.

Toala was a ex-procurement clerk with the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Dep’t of Labor. As part of her duties, she was assigned a government credit card and was responsible for purchasing computer equipment on behalf of BLS with the credit card. Toala was also responsible for reconciling the monthly statements for the government credit card, and filling out and sending to the bank dispute forms for those charges that were improper. Beginning about July 1999, through the actions of Perez, Toala agreed to and began ordering computer equipment for BLS by way of government purchase orders from a company operated by Maruja Mondazzi, located in Miami, Fla. In connection with these orders, Toala provided Mondazzi with Toala’s government credit card number and provided Mondazzi authorization to place charges on her government credit card as payment for these purchases. Mondazzi’s company was a small general merchandise store and was not in the business of selling computers. Toala was not authorized to make purchases from Mondazzi’s company.

The government was defrauded in various ways. Initially, Mondazzi filled some of the purchase orders at inflated prices. Mondazzi also started charging Toala’s credit card without supplying any computer equipment to the BLS. A total of approximately $300,000 was charged to Toala’s credit card for which no supporting documentation exists and for which DOL received nothing in return. Toala aided and abetted the theft of government monies by, among other things, failing: 1) to notify any of the officials at the BLS of these unlawful charges; 2) to send dispute forms to the bank; 3) to rescind the authorization allowing the Miami Corporation to charge her card; and 4) to reconcile bank statements containing the fraudulent charges.

Perez facilitated the arrangement by initially meeting with Mondazzi in Miami, Florida. Perez admitted to coming up with the scheme to inflate charges from Mondazzi’s company and admitted knowing that the transactions would be conducted by means of the government credit card. Subsequently, through telephone calls, he discussed and confirmed the details of the arrangement with Mondazzi.

The pleas were entered before U.S. Dist. Judge Richard W. Roberts (D.D.C., Clinton) in Washington, D.C. Sentencing for both defendants has been set for Apr. 11. Mondazzi remains indicted and is a fugitive. [USAO D.D.C. 12/6/01]