Valdosta Daily Times

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May 3, 2014

Lake Park man sentenced to prison

VALDOSTA — A federal judge sentenced two men this week to federal prison for their part in a fraudulent Lake Park child support collection business, according to the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia’s office Friday.

One defendant was also sentenced for unrelated cocaine charges.

U.S. District Judge J. Louis Sands sentenced Mark C. Simpson, 51, of Lake Park and Stuart C. Cole, 59, of St. Petersburg, Fla., based on their guilty pleas to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering, and for Simpson, a plea of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and crack

cocaine.

Simpson received a sentence of 13 years and four months in federal prison on each of his three counts to run concurrently. Sands sentenced Cole to 15 years and eight months in federal prison.

“Mr. Cole’s imprisonment was ordered to be served following the

completion of a federal sentence he is currently serving for a drug distribution conviction in the Southern District of Texas,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

A separate hearing will be held within 90 days to address restitution.

In January, both men admitted to conspiring from September 2007 through August 2009 to operating a fraudulent child support collection office in Lake Park and other locations.

Simpson, Cole and associates “defrauded custodial parents who were to receive child support payments by inducing them to sign collection agreements with their company and offering to assist them in collecting child support payments from non-custodial parents, claiming that all fees connected with the collections would be the responsibility of the non-custodial patent,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Through “fraud, deception and coercion,” they forced non-custodial parents and their employers to send child-support payments to their business, but court records note that only a portion of the collected money went to the custodial parents for the children. Instead, they admitted in their respective federal pleas that the money their business retained went to them and associates to lease houses, cars and boats.

“The conspiracy collected more than $2.3 million and retained approximately $1.2 million,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s office. Additionally, they admitted to laundering the collected funds through bank accounts including an account for a corporation, purported to be a church, as “love gifts.”

Earlier this year, Simpson also pleaded guilty to the drug charge which stems from a Dec. 15, 2010 traffic stop along Interstate 85 in Georgia’s Troup County where authorities recovered 13 kilograms of cocaine.

“The drugs were found in a hidden compartment around the transmission of the vehicle he was driving, which had Texas tags and had crossed the border into Mexico as recently as the day before the stop,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s office. “The defendant and the government stipulated that Mr. Simpson would be sentenced based on the possession with intent to distribute between 15 and 50 kilograms of cocaine hydrochloride as a part of the drug distribution conspiracy.”

The Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations, United States Postal Inspection Service and the Georgia Governor’s Office of Consumer Protection investigated the money and wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert D. McCullers is prosecuting this case.

“Mr. Simpson and Mr. Cole took advantage of victims who need help the most,” said U.S. Attorney Michael Moore. “These were parents trying to raise children on their own and having to do it with the financial support these children were due from parents who were not living up to their financial obligations. On the one hand, Mr. Simpson and Mr. Cole offered hope to the custodial parents, and then with the other hand, they snatched the money they were counting on to support their children away from them. While Mr. Simpson was taking money meant for children, he was also involved in putting cocaine on the street. At least while these gentlemen are in federal prison, they won’t be able to prey on their communities.”

 

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