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Beckley businessman sentenced to two years in prison for kickback scheme

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A former businessman in Beckley was sentenced this week to two years in federal prison for requiring illegal kickbacks from former employees.

According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of West Virginia, Alfred Williams, 72, pleaded guilty in June of running a scheme where he required at least one-third of his employees to return cash to him from their paychecks as a condition of their employment. Williams, who operated Williams Mechanical Inc., admitted that the scheme lasted approximately 10 year and that he collected between $600 and $1,000 per week from his employees. 

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office news release, Williams Mechanical Inc. performed work as a plumbing sub-contractor for numerous public works projects that were financed with government funds. Because his company was doing work on publicly funded projects, Williams was required by state and federal law to pay prevailing wage, which is a government-established wage that includes benefits and overtime compensation for work performed.

Williams admitted that he was aware of the legal requirements, yet failed to meet those obligations.

"The defendant also admitted that he required employees to return cash to him from their paychecks, which hid the fact that he was paying less than the prevailing wage.  Also, during the scheme, Williams misreported the hours employees actually worked and paid them based upon improper job classifications," the news release stated.

In 1998, the West Virginia Division of Labor forced Williams to pay 13 employees more than $25,000 for failure to pay prevailing wages to which they were entitled.  The defendant agreed to pay restitution of up to $520,000 at his June plea hearing. 

The U.S. Department of Labor conducted the investigation, with assistance from the West Virginia Division of Labor.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Hunter P. Smith handled the prosecution.  The sentence was imposed by United States District Judge Irene C. Berger.