Byline: PAUL PINKHAM
A Jacksonville jury convicted three business owners Wednesday in a nationwide workers compensation conspiracy that cheated hundreds of thousands of employees out of insurance benefits.
The men face life prison sentences and fines totaling $17 million. In addition, federal prosecutors asked a judge for forfeitures totalling $78 million in assets they say were proceeds of the scam.
"We will continue to seek renumeration for these injured employees whose lives have been ruined," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Devereaux. He said the forfeiture money will be used to offset some of the victims' losses.
Jurors deliberated about two days before convicting Donald Touchet, 54, of El Cajon, Calif.; Richard E. Standridge, 59, of Tempe, Ariz.; and Robert J. Jennings, 60, of Danville, Ill., of mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.
All three had been out on bail, but U.S. District Judge Virginia Hernandez Covington ordered them jailed immediately after the verdicts were announced to await sentencing May 23.
Touchet's attorney, Thomas Bell, said he will appeal. But Bell praised the jury for enduring the five-week trial.
"This case involved very complex questions," Bell said.
Lawyers for Standridge and Jennings couldn't be reached Thursday.
Prosecutors said the men used sham companies to defraud small business owners into paying premiums for nonexistent workers compensation insurance. Five of the victimized businesses were in Jacksonville.
As a result, hundreds of thousands of employees were left uninsured, and some suffered catastrophic financial setbacks, witnesses testified during the trial. …