3 plead guilty in Chamico case

Published 9:12 am Friday, August 29, 2014

U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite announced that Jerry Athey, age 56; David Lowe, age 48; and Terry Castilow, age 48, all residents of Bogalusa, pleaded guilty Wednesday before U.S. District Court Judge Helen G. Berrigan to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud for their participation in a scheme to defraud the Louisiana Workforce Commission of unemployment benefits. Castilow also pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud.

Castilow, Lowe and Athey were indicted in April 2014, along with Charles “Chuck” Mizell Jr., James Creel, William Darryl King, Tenille Nielson, Jacqueline Myers and Roger Nadeau, for mail fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud. According to the indictment, beginning at a time unknown, but no later than on or about Sept. 24, 2009, and continuing through on or about Jan. 11, 2014, Mizell, Castilow, King, Lowe, Creel, Athey, Nielson, Myers and Nadeau conspired to defraud the Louisiana Workforce Commission of money and property by means of false and fraudulent representations, pretenses and promises, well knowing the representations, pretenses and promises were false, and mailed and caused to be mailed through the United States Postal Service unemployment benefit claim forms for the purpose of obtaining UI benefits to which they were not entitled. Specifically, at the time Castilow, King, Lowe, Creel, Athey, Nielson, Myers and Nadeau applied for UI benefits and made weekly representations to LWC that they were unemployed and not getting paid, Mizell actually employed them at Chamico Inc., a Bogalusa construction company that concentrates on public, municipal and industrial contracts.

Mizell was the president of Chamico, and according to the factual basis signed by Castilow, Lowe and Athey, he asked them to fraudulently file for unemployment so he would not have to pay their full salaries during tough economic times for Chamico. Castilow, Lowe and Athey would each get cash from Chamico during the weeks they were claiming unemployment benefits reporting that they were not working and not getting any income from work.

When Castilow became Chamico’s office manager in 2013, she began assisting Mizell in facilitating the scheme for the other employees. According to the factual basis for Castilow’s plea, she completed the unemployment forms for six Chamico employees fraudulently representing to the Louisiana Workforce Commission that the employees did not work at Chamico when she knew that they were working and/or receiving income from Chamico. Castilow kept the payroll records for the employees and the ledgers showing how much cash each employee who was participating in the unemployment scheme was to receive each week. Castilow cashed the checks that Mizell endorsed for those employees he was paying while they were drawing unemployment and still working for him. On payday, those employees picked up the cash payments from Castilow.

On May 7, 2014, Jacqueline Myers pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud for her participation in the same scheme. Myers is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 24. Castilow, Lowe and Athey will be sentenced on Dec. 3.

Castilow, Lowe, Athey and Myers each face a maximum term of five years’ incarceration, a $250,000 fine, and three years’ supervised release on the conspiracy conviction. Castilow faces an additional sentence of up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years’ supervised release for her mail fraud conviction.

The trial of the remaining defendants is scheduled for Sept. 15.

The case was investigated by the Department of Labor-OIG and the Federal Bureau of Investigation with assistance from the Louisiana Workforce Commission. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Emily K. Greenfield.