A Washington man pleaded guilty this week to federal mail fraud and money laundering charges.
Bradley Ferguson, 48, owner of Paymaster Business Solutions in Fenton, is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 6 in U.S. District Court.
He pleaded guilty to one felony count of mail fraud and one felony count of money laundering before U.S. District Judge E. Richard Webber.
Ferguson faces up to 20 years in federal prison and/or fines of up to $250,000 on the mail fraud charge and up to five years for money laundering.
Ferguson is accused of withdrawing money from the bank accounts of business clients to pay federal, state and local taxes but did not make the payments, according to a federal grand jury indictment.
He also could be subject to a forfeiture allegation, which will require the forfeiture to the government all money derived from the illegal activity.
Ferguson’s clients included churches, youth organizations, child daycare facilities, law firms, and other businesses throughout the St. Louis area, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
In determining the actual sentence, a judge is required to consider the U.S. sentencing guidelines, which provide recommended sentencing ranges.
According to the indictment, from January 2005 through January 2014, Ferguson drafted funds directly from Paymaster business clients’ bank accounts in order to pay their federal, state, and local tax liabilities. However, Paymaster, at Ferguson’s direction, failed to forward the Paymaster business clients’ funds to the taxing authorities in order to pay their tax liabilities then due.
Paymaster drafted in excess of $2,700,000 from Paymaster business clients’ bank accounts to pay clients’ federal, state, and local tax liabilities, as well as FICA liabilities, for the period July 2013 through December 2013, but were not forwarded to the proper taxing authorities, the indictment alleges.
Additionally, the indictment alleges that Ferguson, as power of attorney for Paymaster business clients, was contacted directly by the IRS and questioned as to the failure to pay clients’ federal tax liabilities. Ferguson did not tell his clients about the IRS inquiries. When clients occasionally learned that Paymaster had not forwarded their funds to the taxing authorities, Ferguson lied to them and told them Paymaster had made the payments, according to the allegations.
Finally, the indictment states that in December 2013, Ferguson retained the services of a commercial shredding company and directed that the Paymaster business client records be shredded and removed from the Paymaster offices.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Postal Inspection Service and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Hal Goldsmith is handling the case.