MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Charles A. “Chuck” Jones of Murray has pleaded guilty to a federal charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Jones and his attorney, Lorna McClusky, signed the agreement with the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee on Jan. 21, and Assistant U.S. attorneys Tony R. Arvin and Murre M. Foster finalized the agreement with their signatures on Wednesday.
In February 2019, the Western District of Tennessee announced that Jones and Mark J. Whitaker, also of Murray, had been indicted on criminal charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. A news release at the time said Jones was the part owner of two now-dissolved technology companies, Technology Associates Inc. and Integrated Computer Solutions Inc. The indictment accused Jones and Whitaker of being involved in activities related to the E-rate Program, which pays up to 90% of the cost for qualified schools to purchase internet access and other telecommunications services and equipment for their students.
The indictment charged that Jones and Whitaker conspired with an individual identified as “A.J.,” to whom Jones allegedly gave money and other things of value in return for “A.J.’s assistance.” The news release said Jones and Whitaker allegedly used “A.J.” and “A.J.’s” position with schools in Crockett County, Tennessee and another district in Missouri to violate program rules. The men were accused of having submitted and causing to be submitted fabricated documents, as well as making false statements and representations to the E-rate program administrator. This included assertions that Jones’ companies had invoiced schools for the proper co-payment amounts.
The case was investigated by the FCC Office of Inspector General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Whitaker pleaded guilty in February 2020 to misprision of wire fraud.
According to the plea agreement, which was obtained by the Ledger & Times on Wednesday, Jones agrees that he will enter a voluntary plea of guilty to count one of the second superseding indictment, which charges him with conspiracy to commit wire fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. $ 1349. The offense carries a maximum statutory punishment of imprisonment for not more than 20 years imprisonment, a fine of not more than $250,000, a period of supervised release for not more than five years, and a mandatory special assessment of $100. The defendant “agrees that he is entering a voluntary plea of guilty to Count One of the Second Superseding Indictment because he is, in fact, guilty of the offense charged in Count One,” the agreement states.
Pursuant to the agreement, the U.S. and the defendant agree that the court should impose a sentence of not more than 18 months imprisonment. According to the court filing, this provision does not bar Jones from arguing for a lesser sentence. If the court rejects the agreement, neither party is bound by its terms and Jones may withdraw his guilty plea.
The U.S. agreed to dismiss two other pending charges; to recommend that Jones receive full credit for acceptance of responsibility; to recommend that following imprisonment, he be placed on supervised release for a period of time to be determined by the court; to recommend that Jones be required to pay a fine amount if ordered by the court; and to recommend that Jones pay the mandatory special assessment fee of $100 per count, said amount due and owing as of the date the sentence is pronounced.
The plea agreement contains no agreement regarding restitution, and accordingly does not restrict the U.S. from seeking full restitution at Jones’ sentencing hearing, the document said. If the U.S. receives information between the signing of the agreement and the time of the sentencing that he has engaged or engages in the future in “conduct inconsistent with the acceptance of responsibility, including, but not limited to, participation in any additional criminal activities between now and the time of sentencing,” the U.S.’s position on acceptance of responsibility credit could change.
By signing the agreement, Jones has waived the right to appeal any sentence imposed by the court and the manner in which the sentence is determined so long as it is within the applicable guideline range, or lower. According to the court docket, Jones will have his sentencing hearing on June 1.
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