Controller of Ralph Hughes’ Company Guilty of Embezzlement

The former corporate controller of Cast-Crete, a company founded by the late Tampa political activist Ralph Hughes, pleaded guilty this week to embezzling more than $5.3 million from the company. Franklin R. Derochemont had worked for the company since 1979.

Derochemont admitted, in a Tampa federal courtroom, mail fraud and tax evasion for conspiring with an accountant to steal from Cast-Crete between October 2003 and December 2008 and then failing to pay income taxes on the stolen money.

From 2005 to 2008, Derochemont’s annual income nearly quadrupled but he failed to pay taxes on his full income, according to court documents.

Mail fraud carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison,  while he faces up to five years in prison on the tax evasion charge.

Hughes died two years ago, while under investigation by the IRS regarding at least $300 million in unpaid corporate and personal tax liabilities, according to a civil lawsuit filed by the Justice Department. He was politically conservative and very involved in local Hillsborough County government.

According to Derochemont’s signed plea agreement, he conspired with a certified public accountant who was not employed by Cast-Crete. Derochemont sent the accountant checks for “fictitious accounting and sales tax services,” and the accountant sent Derochemont kickbacks.

Cast-Crete has sued Derochemont and a company accountant, alleging that they stole a total of more than $3.8 million from the company, and that Derochemont took more than $1.3 million more to pay his credit card bills.

Court documents indicate Derochemont also stole money from the company’s operating account to pay his personal credit card bills. He admits he also failed to pay federal income taxes on the money he stole between 2006 and 2008.

He paid a total of $65,437 in taxes, but allegedly should have paid $775,141 based on his actual income.

Under the plea agreement, Derochement is required to reimburse Cast-Crete and the IRS and to forfeit $5.3 million, an amount about equivalent to the proceeds of the embezzlement scheme.

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