Santa Clarita Valley woman sentenced to over 4 years in prison for embezzling $1.7 million through diversity recruitment scam | USAO-CDCA

LOS ANGELES – The former human resources manager for a Santa Clarita-based race car design and development company was sentenced today to 51 months in federal prison for conspiring to defraud her then-employer over more of $1.7 million for diversity recruiting using two bogus companies that charged for services that were never performed.

Judith Fernandez-Adelugba, 45, of Stevenson Ranch, was convicted by U.S. District Judge John F. Walter, who also ordered her to pay $1,745,964 in restitution. At today’s hearing, Judge Walter said Fernandez-Adelugba was ‘driven by pure greed’ and that her criminal conduct left her employer ‘shaken to the core’.

Fernandez-Adelugba pleaded guilty in August 2021 to one count of wire fraud. She worked as a senior director of human resources at a company identified in court documents as “Company-1,” a Santa Clarita-based company that provided a technical and operational center for high-performance racing programs and specialized in the design and development of high-performance auto parts.

Fernandez-Adelugba was responsible for the company’s diversity recruitment, which included implementing and managing programs to encourage people from diverse backgrounds of gender, race, ethnicity and others to apply for jobs. at his employer. She also had the authority to approve payment of bills up to $25,000.

To help him with the project, Fernandez-Adelugba recruited his father, George Fernandez, 75, of Stevenson Ranch, and Alex Lawrence Wilkison, 49, of Canyon Country, who was married to Fernandez-Adelugba’s co-worker in Company-1. George Fernandez was the president and CEO of the Stevenson Ranch-based company, Business Solutions Services (BSS). Wilkison was the registered owner of Engineering Talent Connect (ETC), a fictitious business name registered to an address in Mission Hills.

From March 2015 until his resignation from Company-1 in February 2018, Fernandez-Adelugba, his father, and Wilkison used BSS and ETC to embezzle funds from Company-1 – money they used to their own personal enrichment. Participants in the scheme submitted bogus invoices issued by BSS and ETC to Company-1 that requested payment for diversity recruitment-related services allegedly performed. These “services” included posting job vacancies, posting job-related advertisements, sourcing candidates, and successfully recruiting candidates for Company-1.

Fernandez-Adelugba approved the bogus invoices for payment, handed them over to Company 1’s accounting department, and followed up to request and facilitate payment of the bogus invoices.

After Company-1 issued payments on the bogus bills, Fernandez-Adelugba and his fellow crooks used their illicit earnings for personal expenses such as trips to Las Vegas, credit card bills and meals at the restaurant. restaurant.

From March 2015 to November 2017, Fernandez-Adelugba caused 150 false invoices to be submitted to Company-1, which resulted in her transferring a total of $1,745,964 to the two companies linked to the scheme – $1,562,364 to BSS and $183,600 to ETC.

Fernandez-Adelugba paid bribes to her accomplices and kept more than $1.1 million of ill-gotten gains from the scheme, which she used for her personal gain.

“Company-1 suffered more than this sense of betrayal,” prosecutors argued in a sentencing memorandum. “[Fernandez-Adelugba’s] misappropriation of funds intended for diversity recruitment caused Company-1 to fall behind its diversity recruitment targets. Due to [Fernandez-Adelugba’s] greed and selfishness, many worthy and diverse engineers may have been denied potential careers at Company-1. »

Wilkison pleaded guilty in November 2020 to one count of wire fraud and is serving a six-month sentence in federal prison. Judge Walter ordered Wilkison to pay $183,600 in restitution.

George Fernandez has agreed to pay $103,140 in restitution to Company-1 as part of a pretrial diversion agreement with federal prosecutors. A superseding information filed in September 2021 charged Fernandez with committing a felony for failing to report his daughter’s act of wire fraud in March 2018 when he knew of her criminal conduct.

The FBI investigated this matter.

Assistant United States Attorney Scott Paetty of the Major Fraud Section prosecuted the case.

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