Two men plead guilty to charges in Bledsoe County fraud case
Two men accused of defrauding the federal and state government out of millions of dollars have pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud and money laundering.
One charge after the other, Karim and Rahim Saddrudin stood before Judge Christopher Steger in court Wednesday morning and said "guilty" when asked how they plead.
"The Saddrudins were charged as part of a scheme greater than $30 million to defraud FEMA, TVA and the State of Tennessee, related to the procurement of tarps for hurricane victims in Puerto Rico," U.S. Attorney J. Douglas Overbey said during a news conference.
Entering a guilty plea means they've forfeited their right to a jury trial and willingly admitted to carrying out a conspiracy that has cost FEMA, TVA, and the State of Tennessee an estimated $10 million in collective losses, according to an affidavit.
Prosecutors say the scheme included their company, Textile Corporation of America's false promise to bring 1,000 new jobs to Bledsoe County by opening a textile manufacturing mill in Pikeville.
"There are probably 1,000 people in Bledsoe County who thought, 'I might be able to get one of those jobs. I might be able to buy the bike that my kids been wanting for Christmas this year'," said Prosecutor Steven Neff.
Officials say around the same time, their other company Master Group USA was contracted by FEMA to produce more than 400,000 tarps for disaster relief efforts in Puerto Rico in 2017.
But instead, they provided cheaper quality tarps from Taiwan that violated federal disaster relief regulations.
"The greed and callousness of those who perpetrated this scheme have prevented them from receiving the assistance they needed and prolonged the struggles to return to some normalcy," U.S. Attorney J. Douglas Overbey added.
A federal indictment claims the Saddrudins created fake invoices and received millions in grant funds they transferred to personal accounts--allocating just a few hundred thousand to pay for the tarps and minimal renovations on the Pikeville plant.
"Once we realized there was a connection between what had happened in Pikeville and the money they got from Pikeville and that money was traced back, we realized the two schemes were actually one," Neff said.
Several agencies including the TBI, FBI, and Department of Homeland Security all worked together to foil the plot they say went on from April of 2017 to January of 2019.
The Saddrudins were not taken into custody and allowed to go home after trial Wednesday--but with conditions.
Judge Steger ruled that they did not pose any risk to the public or flight risk.
The next time they will appear in front of a judge will be their sentencing scheduled for March 27th.