Kan. businessman pleads guilty to federal white collar crimes in Mo.

In mid-November 2013, the United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri issued a press release announcing the guilty plea of a Kansas resident to the federal crimes of money laundering and mail fraud stemming from an alleged embezzlement scheme. According to the release, 52-year-old Robert L. Fine, II, obtained more than $1.3 million through fraudulent means from the Missouri Petroleum Storage Tank Insurance Fund, referred to as the PSTIF.

The PSTIF is a public insurance fund that covers clean-up costs and other damages from leaking or otherwise compromised underground storage tanks in Missouri. It was created by the state of Missouri to meet federal requirements that storage tank owners and operators have the means to pay for appropriate remediation of environmental damage from tank spills and similar incidents.

The PSTIF is funded by fees assessed for transporting petroleum into the state and by annual insurance premiums.

Apparently, Fine owned a Missouri corporation that provided "environmental services" through subcontractors for people owning or using petroleum storage tanks. For about 10 years, he submitted falsely inflated invoices through the mail to the PSTIF for reimbursement for clean-up services by to the subcontractors. He also reportedly billed the fund for an expensive business trip he never actually made.

Fine agreed to pay more than $1.5 million in restitution to the PSTIF, which represents the fraud itself plus other related expenses. He paid $350,000 when he pleaded guilty and must pay the rest within the next couple of months.

The U.S. Attorney states that, in addition to restitution, Fine could receive up to 30 years in prison without the possibility of parole along with up to $500,000 in fines. He will be sentenced at a hearing after a federal presentence investigation.

White collar crime

White collar crimes are those that do not involve violence, but rather some type of illegally obtained financial gain, usually related to fraudulent activity like that in the Fine example. He allegedly committed the federal crimes of mail fraud - use of the U.S. mail to perpetrate an illegal fraud - and money laundering, or the running of illegally obtained money through neutral accounts or using it in other noncriminal transactions to dilute the tainted nature of the funds and make them harder to trace.

White collar crimes can be illegal under both federal and state laws. Other examples include:

  • Tax evasion
  • Mortgage fraud
  • Health care fraud
  • Fiduciary fraud
  • Bank fraud
  • Forgery
  • And more

Seek out sound legal defense

Anyone investigated for or accused of a white collar crime under federal or state law should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Legal counsel can help monitor the investigation, build a vigorous defense, negotiate with law enforcement and defend the charges in court if necessary.