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Jackson man found guilty in DeWitt Co. kickback scheme
A Cape Girardeau County jury Tuesday evening found a Jackson man guilty in the theft of more than $500,000 from a Sikeston, Mo.-based company.
Sentencing for Jason Mitchell is scheduled for July 16. He faces up to 15 years in prison. The jury deliberated more than three hours in reaching its decision about 8:30 p.m., after a one-day trial.
Mitchell was the mastermind of a kickback scheme that led to the transfer of $516,450.24 to a fraudulent bank account from 2007 to 2009, prosecutors said.
Mitchell, a former employee of the landscaping materials firm DeWitt Co., and Rajiv Toprani of Clarksville, Tenn., the owner of a textile supply company, were charged in February 2011 with felony stealing. Charges against Toprani were dropped three months later, when he agreed to testify against Mitchell.
Former DeWitt chief financial officer Richard Potter testified that he set up accounts for the scheme and kept the books. He said he had an agreement with Mitchell that Mitchell would receive 60 percent of the money acquired in the transactions and Potter would receive 40 percent.
Jerry DeWitt, the owner of DeWitt Co., took the stand and said he paid Mitchell $90,000 a year as a purchaser. Mitchell also received a $30,000 Christmas bonus his final year at the firm.
"I was blindsided," DeWitt said.
Potter testified Tuesday that Mitchell was the purchaser who bought materials for DeWitt Co. through textile company KT America. When DeWitt Co. received invoices for products purchased, Potter would send a fax to the company's bank, instructing it to wire payment for the invoices to KT America. Shortly thereafter, an amount equal to 4 percent of the payment would arrive in the Bank of America account of Global Census, a company Potter set up to receive the money.
For example, said Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle, on Aug. 26, 2008, Potter faxed authorization to DeWitt's bank to pay invoices totaling $170,822.68. On Sept. 4, 2008, a adeposit was recorded from KT America totaling $6,832.90.
Mitchell took the stand in his own defense. He said he was able to help DeWitt cut costs. Mitchell said his advice and help finding equipment for KT America allowed the small textile company to grow into one of the largest in India.
Mitchell said the kickbacks were Potter's idea. Potter set up Global Census and kept the books, Mitchell said.
Toprani and Potter were in discussions about payments to Global Census, Mitchell said.
"I told Rick, if you figure out a way to make it work, I'll do it," Mitchell said.
He compared it to "spiffs," in which salesmen from DeWitt Co. would take large sums of cash to trade shows as incentives for clients.
"They were meeting with customers," Mitchell said, "and didn't come back with any cash."
Mitchell's attorney, Stephen Wilson, said his client had been "played for the sucker."
He said Potter was the person in charge of the operation.
Operators of DeWitt Co. became aware of the situation after Mitchell left the company to start a business, Swingle said. An email arrived at Mitchell's old address within the company, asking if he had received his last kickback.
Wilson said he intends to appeal the conviction.
101 Court St., Jackson, MO