When federal authorities were investigating whether a Valrico couple were embezzling money from the wife's employer, signs of unexplained income were among things they sought.
They found five pages worth of signs: Gucci and Louis Vuitton purses and wallets, Apple iPads and laptops, video games and flat-screen televisions, dozens of pairs of designer shoes and closets full of expensive clothes.
The couple rented limousines to go on shopping sprees, documents state, and put a down payment on a new Mercedes-Benz S Class that cost $96,000. Their home had been renovated with high-end appliances and expensive wooden floors.
The couple were able to afford the extravagances, investigators said, by embezzling millions of dollars from HSBC Finance Corp.
On Tuesday, Kevin Guy, 41, pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud conspiracy in federal court. According to federal court documents, Guy encouraged his wife, Michelle, to forge signatures of HSBC supervisors so she could receive gift cards and other business incentives. In all, the cards and incentives totaled more than $2 million between 2007 and 2011, investigators said.
Michelle Guy worked for HSBC "in various administrative and service positions" for 10 years beginning in 2001, documents show. The company, as incentives for employees, offered rewards in the forms of vouchers, "HSBC Cash" and gift cards and checks.
Between 2007 and 2011, Michelle Guy, at the urging of her husband, ordered $2.2 million in gift cards and checks, telling vendors they were for HSBC incentive programs, court documents state.
She forged the signatures of supervisors to get vouchers, gift cards and checks, records state.
Kevin Guy's plea carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, and the government is seeking return of all the items purchased with proceeds of the scheme and full restitution to HSBC Financial Corp., records state. He is the first to be charged in the case, and his wife is expected to enter a plea deal soon. A sentencing date has not been set.
Kevin Guy has agreed to cooperate fully with prosecutors. In return, prosecutors will not object to a lesser sentence. The documents say the couple recruited at least two unnamed people to deposit checks and cash.