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Fri, Oct 20, 2017 19:27
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Universal Forest Products senior executive sentenced to prison time

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (From The Daily Freeman) -- A Universal Forest Products executive was sentenced in federal court on Thursday to 50 months in prison for conspiracy, mail fraud, money-laundering and making false statements in a loan application in connection with the construction of Vineyard Commons in Highland, N.Y.

Robert Lees, 62, was found guilty by a jury in May after a seven-day trial.

Lees, a senior executive at Universal Forest Products, defrauded the Department of Urban Development and a mortgage lender, causing millions of dollars in losses, according to authorities. The scam included inflated bids for construction work, with kickbacks, they added.

In 2009, Lees had responsibility with a subsidiary of United Forest, which was to be the contractor on Vineyard Commons, a senior housing community in Highland, responsible for framing and rough carpentry.

Lees was also ordered to forfeit $865,000 in ill-gotten gains and to pay $865,000 in restitutions.

Lees' co-defendants also have been convicted. Michael Barnett, of Hopewell Junction, N.Y., pleaded guilty to conspiracy and was sentenced to 37 months in prison. Kevin DiCello pleaded guilty in April to conspiracy, mail fraud, money laundering and making false statements in a loan application and is scheduled to be sentenced in January.

According to court admissions and allegations, Barnett sought kickbacks and investments from subcontractors and vendors on the project and made false statements to the project's lender so he could draw down on the project's line of credit.

Barnett also arranged with the officials of the carpentry and lumber supplies vendor to have the company pay Barnett a kickback in exchange for Barnett's award of the contract on the Vineyard Commons project and other planned future ones, authorities said, add that the bids were inflated by some $865,000.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara Bharara has said Lees and DiCello were willing to go along with Barnett's demand for the $865,000 to be kicked back to Barnett so they could get more business from Barnett in the future.


Join Jim Thompson on the 2nd Annual Papermakers Mission Trip to Guatemala, 22 - 29 July 17. Build houses, talk about the pulp and paper industry. For more information, email with "Guatemala" in the subject line.

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