Three Santa Clarita Valley residents have been charged in federal court on allegations of embezzling $1.7 million from a company in a scheme involving diversity recruitment and hiring.
A 17-count indictment containing charges of wire and mail fraud and conspiracy was returned against Judith Fernandez-Adelugba, 43, of Stevenson Ranch, Alex Lawrence Wilkison of Canyon Country, and George Albert Fernandez, 73, also of Stevenson Ranch.
Fernandez-Adelugba and Wilkison were arrested Sept. 3, while Fernandez, who is the father of Fernandez-Adelugba, is currently out of state and expected to be taken into custody soon.
According to the indictment, Fernandez-Adelugba, the former human resources manager at Honda Performance Development Inc., a Santa Clarita business specializing in the design and development of racing engines and automotive parts, conspired with Wilkison and Fernandez to embezzle the company’s funds.
The defendants allegedly submitted fake invoices issued by Business Solutions Services, a Stevenson Ranch company where Fernandez is chief executive, and Engineering Talent Connect, a Mission Hills company that Wilkison owns, requesting payment for diversity recruitment-related services purportedly never performed.
These “services” included posting job openings, placing job-related advertisements, searching for candidates and recruiting candidates for the company, according to the indictment.
After the company issued payments on the fake invoices, the defendants allegedly used their illicit gains for personal expenditures such as credit card bills, dining at restaurants, items bought at grocery stores, pool supplies and cash withdrawals.
Honda Performance is a subsidiary of American Honda Motor Co. Inc. in Torrance.
An emailed statement from a spokesman for American Honda said the subsidiary could not comment on the pending criminal investigation of its former employee, who worked there from October 2014 to February 2018, but that it was assisting and cooperating with federal law enforcement.
“HPD is confident that justice will be served,” the statement said.
Between April 2015 and January 2018, based on these fake invoices, the defendants caused the company to transfer nearly $1.6 million to Business Solutions Services and $183,600 to Engineering Talent Connect. The total loss was $1.75 million, according to the indictment.
Each charge of mail fraud and wire fraud carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.