Sam's Club, Tyson Employees Charged With Taking Kickbacks

Separate federal criminal indictments were unsealed last month charging an employee of Sam's Club and an employee of Tyson Foods Inc. with accepting kickbacks from vendors.

The vendors were also charged in the indictments, which were handed down by a grand jury in Fayetteville on Jan. 25 and unsealed when the defendants were arraigned on Feb. 15. Not guilty pleas have been entered by all four men, Mark Hoffman and David Workman in the Sam's Club case and Roger D. Turney and Bobby D. Griffith in the Tyson case.

In the Sam's Club case, Hoffman, a senior buyer of dry goods and coffee for the wholesale club division of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., allegedly accepted almost $250,000 from a Florida coffee broker between 2003 and 2007.

Hoffman and David Workman, who owned Mountain Falls Inc. of Cypress Gardens, Fla., are jointly charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and one count of aiding and abetting mail fraud.

In the Tyson case, Bobby D. Griffith, majority owner of B&W Millwrights of Clarksville, allegedly paid Roger D. Turney, engineer at the Tyson complex in Clarksville, a $25,000 kickback for falsifying bids on a 2007 construction job to ensure B&W got the contract.

Griffith and Turney were jointly charged with four counts of aiding and abetting mail fraud and a single count of money laundering.

In both cases, the corporate employees allegedly set up dummy companies to which the vendors paid kickbacks.

Hoffman's company was called Moonlight Support Services, which was incorporated with the Arkansas Secretary of State's office in October 2003.

The indictment alleges that Hoffman and Workman established the company in the name of an unindicted co-conspirator, who was not named. The Secretary of State's office lists the incorporator of Moonlight Support Services as K. Walsh and the registered agent as Stacie Hoffman of Rogers.

According to the indictment, Hoffman solicited kickback payments from Workman, who was a broker for Bay Area Coffee. The indictment includes no other information about Bay Area Coffee, but a company by that name in Benicia, Calif., lists Sam's Club as a distributor on its website.

Workman wrote kickback checks, federal prosecutors allege, from his Mountain Falls Inc. to Moonlight Support Services and mailed them from Florida to a post office box in Rogers.

Hoffman received some $245,800 this way over about four years, according to the indictment.

The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Robert Dawson of Fort Smith after U.S. District Judge Jimm Larry Hendren of Fayetteville recused himself, and a trial has been tentatively set to start on April 5.

Hoffman is represented by Fayetteville attorney Terry Harper, and Workman is represented by Tim Buckley, also of Fayetteville. Neither Harper nor Buckley was immediately available for comment early Friday afternoon.

Turney, who left Tyson's employ in August 2010, has a company called Design Engineering, through which the prosecution says he ran kickbacks from companies awarded construction projects at the Tyson complex there.

Turney's defense attorney, Joel Huggins of Springdale, said his client will argue his innocence at trial, currently set for May 14.

"Mr. Turney's position is he has done nothing wrong," Huggins told Design Engineering was and still is a legitimate, viable business, Huggins said.

The indictment describes a scheme by Turney to circumvent Tyson's policy of requiring three bids for every construction project.

In taking bids for the construction of 10 kilogram boxes for "leg quarters" at the Clarksville plant in March 2007, Turney allegedly created phony bids from two companies, Carmody Manufacturing Inc. and Ward Wilhelm Construction, that were slightly higher than the $158,900 bid submitted by B&W. Carmody Manufacturing is a legitimate company incorporated in Clarksville in 1988; no company named Ward Wilhelm Construction is listed with the Arkansas Secretary of State.

The prosecution's description of the bidding is "not quite accurate," Huggins, Turney's defense attorney, said. "You don't believe everything the U.S. Attorney says, do you?"

According to the indictment, B&W was awarded the contract. In April 2007, Turney's Design Engineering company billed B&W Millwrights $25,000 for "engineering fees," and the invoice was paid in June. In the meantime, Tyson Foods had begun paying B&W's bills for work at the plant, and the total grew to more than $236,000 after change orders.

"Design Engineering did not provide services of any kind to B&W," the indictment alleges. "The $25,000.00 represented a kickback paid by Griffith to Turney for ensuring B&W was awarded the construction project at the Tyson Foods Clarksville Complex."

Griffith's attorney, Kimberly R. Weber of Rogers, said her client also denies any wrongdoing.

"He assures me that Mr. Turney worked for this business," she said.

Weber pointed out that Griffith has not been accused of "padding" the charges to Tyson, and she objected to the prosecution's use of the word kickback, which she said should only describe cases of official corruption.

"The only one who lost any money was my client," she said.

While Turney's attorney expects to make his case to a jury, Weber said, "I always hope we can resolve this prior to going to trial."

The case has been assigned to Judge Hendren.