Suffolk man pleads not guilty in fraud case

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 28, 2005

Suffolk News-Herald

A northern Suffolk man accused of attempting to defraud a Montana trucking company entered a plea of not guilty in federal court Wednesday afternoon in Billings, Mont.

Anthony Vernon Ward, 42, who has addresses in both the 4400 block of Bruce Farm Drive and Jacksonville, Fla., was charged with 16 counts of wire fraud totaling $10,342 against the Waggoners Trucking company in Billings.

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A co-defendant of Ward’s, Denise Lynn Hirst, 34, of Roundup, Mont., who is a former payroll clerk at the company, pleaded guilty in November to 23 counts of wire fraud, according to the Billings Gazette, a local newspaper of the area.

She admitted to embezzling more than $120,000 from the business.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme said Hirst gave the money to two boyfriends, one of whom was Ward, the Gazette reported.

A warrant has been issued for Hirst’s other boyfriend, Johnny Wayne Davis, 36, a resident of Columbia, S.C.

According to the Gazette, the government alleged that from July 2001 to January 2002, Hirst made payroll entries showing that Ward was entitled to payments for trips for which he had already been paid or was going to be paid.

Ward would receive the improper payments in his payroll deposit.

Hirst also made entries showing that Ward was entitled to payments for trips that other employees made and to payments with no explanation. Ward also received those improper payments in his payroll deposit, prosecutors said.

In addition, Hirst made it possible for Ward to cash transchecks – electronic certified checks used by trucking companies to cover business expenses while drivers are on the road – to which he was not entitled, the Gazette also reported.

If convicted, Ward faces up to five years in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine.

Efforts to find a local telephone number for Ward were unsuccessful.

Lt. Debbie George, spokeswoman for the Suffolk Police Department, was not familiar with the facts of the Montana case.

She did say, however, that

police were dispatched to Ward’s Bruce Farm Drive address on an unrelated matter in November 2004.