Jim Boyle May 2, 2014, 5:00pm


A husband and wife team from Arkansas admitted to federal authorities their role in a six-year printer ink and toner scheme that cost the city of Philadelphia more than $1 million.

Derek and Danita Willis, 49 and 35, respectively, of Russellville, Ark., pleaded guilty in federal court on April 29 for taking part in a scheme between January 2006 and January 2012 that defrauded the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) of more than $1 million after the city purchased and paid shipping costs for printer ink and toner cartridges that were then sold at a lower price to the couple.

The Willises owned Laser Cartridge Plus Inc. (LCP), a business located in Russellville. According to the FBI, they were contacted by Calvin Duncan who, at the time, worked for the PWD as a mailroom clerk. As part of his responsibilities, Duncan was responsible for mail deliveries and purchasing supplies, including printer ink and toner cartridges, for the administrative offices of PWD.

According to prosecutors, Duncan submitted requests for approval to purchase printer ink and toner cartridges, falsely claiming that the cartridges were for PWD employees. After receiving the printer ink and toner cartridges from the approved vendors at the city of Philadelphia’s expense, Duncan sold the printer ink and toner cartridges to LCP at a discount.

The scheme caused the city of Philadelphia to pay approximately $1,368,091.19 on purchase orders and shipping costs for printer ink and toner cartridges never intended to be used by PWD employees.

Additionally, Derek and Danita Willis paid Duncan approximately $545,412.79 for the printer ink and toner cartridges purchased with the city of Philadelphia funds and shipped to LCP using PWD’s UPS shipping account. Duncan pleaded guilty on Aug. 9, 2013, and will be sentenced on July 18, 2014.

The couple pleaded guilty to five counts of mail fraud, obstruction of justice for the destruction of documents related to the fraud scheme, and perjury for knowingly making false statements to the grand jury on May 8, 2012. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Oct. 10, 2014.

Derek Willis faces a maximum possible sentence of 120 years in prison, a maximum fine of $2.25 million, a $900 special assessment, and supervised release; Danita Willis faces a maximum possible sentence of 110 years in prison, a maximum fine of $1.75 million, a $700 special assessment, and supervised release.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the city of Philadelphia Office of the Inspector General. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Tomika N. Stevens.

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