KANSAS CITY, MO (STL.News) – Six employees of the Kansas City, Missouri, public works department have been indicted by a federal grand jury for their roles in a nearly three-year, $58,000 overtime fraud conspiracy.
Prentis M. Rayford, 36, Eric McKamey, 47, Paul Myers, 61, Edward Lee Ellingburg, 47, Kenneth Gethers, 33, and Julio Prospero, 49, all of Kansas City, Missouri, were charged in a 13-count indictment that was returned under seal by a federal grand jury in Kansas City, Mo., on June 26, 2019. That indictment was unsealed and made public yesterday following the arrests of the defendants.
All of the defendants, who have an initial court appearance at 3:30 p.m. yesterday, were employees of the city of Kansas City, Missouri, in the Public Works Sign Division. The federal indictment alleges they participated in a conspiracy from January 2013 to Nov. 30, 2016, to receive more than $58,000 in overtime pay as a result of material false and fraudulent representations.
Among their responsibilities, these city employees replaced and repaired traffic signs that were missing or damaged. Certain signs, like stop signs, yield signs, one-way signs, and do not enter signs, are considered essential signs. The public can report a problem with an essential sign by calling the traffic operations dispatch or the 311 Action Center. When those reports are made after hours or on weekends, the city’s Public Works Sign Division calls in employees who are willing to work overtime. When an employee is called back after regular working hours or on the weekend, a minimum overtime of four hours is earned, regardless of how long it takes to resolve the issue. Overtime pay is time-and-a-half of the employee’s usual pay.
The federal indictment alleges that conspirators called in damaged signs after hours, called in signs that were not damaged, and had friends and relatives call in reportedly damaged signs, all in order to generate callouts for themselves and other employees. Conspirators allegedly submitted timesheets and work orders for callouts stating that they went to the location of the damaged sign and fixed it, when in fact they did not. They also allegedly submitted timesheets and work orders for callouts when signs were actually damaged, but were not fixed until the following normal work day. Ellingburg, Prospero, McKamey, and Rayford allegedly acquired a Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone application, which disguised their phone number when they called the 311 Action Center.
According to the indictment, a supervisor at the Public Works Sign Division suspected in the summer of 2016 that employees were fraudulently creating and claiming overtime for callouts which were unnecessary or even false. Management arranged to be contacted when calls regarding downed signs were made to the 311 Action Center or traffic operations dispatch. Employees or their relatives often made the calls regarding downed signs themselves, the indictment says. Managers would go to the scene, usually before the employee, and photograph the sign. Often all the signs were up. Occasionally, a sign was down but was not repaired until the following workday. Managers tracked the GPS on work trucks, the indictment says, and often found that the trucks did not go to the location of the supposedly downed sign. Sometimes GPS indicated the trucks went to the location but either did not stop or did not stop long enough to repair a sign.
The internal investigation lasted from Aug. 23, 2016, to Nov. 13, 2016. During that time, approximately 75 percent of all callouts were found to be fraudulent. The city then reported its findings to the FBI for further investigation.
In addition to the conspiracy, the defendants are charged in a dozen counts of wire fraud related to auto-deposited paychecks that included fraudulent overtime payments. Rayford, McKamey, and Gethers are each charged in three counts of wire fraud. Myer, Ellingburg, and Prospero are each charged in one count of wire fraud. The indictment also contains a forfeiture allegation, which would require the defendants to forfeit to the government approximately $58,000 received in connection with the alleged offenses.
The charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.