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Quakertown School District, Richland Twp. Impacted by Fraud Scheme
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer
2021-01-06

            Three former executives of a Doylestown engineering firm were arrested last month for allegedly stealing from more than 150 entities, including Richland Township and the Quakertown Community School District, over a ten-year period.

            The former employees of Boucher & James, Inc. are accused of overseeing a fraud scheme in which they allegedly repeatedly billed municipal and other clients the cost of fictitious time and for covering up their efforts, according to information provided by the office of Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

            On Dec. 13, the office filed criminal charges against former owner and board member Ross Boucher, 58, of Venice, Fla., as well as former managing directors Mark Eisold, 57, of Hartsville, and David Jones, 63, of Pennlyn, in the Oreland Court of District Judge Katherine E. McGill.

            All three face 15 felony counts, including corrupt organizations, theft by deception, receiving stolen property, deceptive business practices, criminal use of a communications facility and related conspiracy charges filed in Springfield Township, according to information posted on a state judicial website.

            "These company executives took advantage of their municipal clients' trust by routinely overbilling for work that never happened," Shapiro said in a Dec. 14 statement posted on the AG's website. "Let's be clear about what this means: when you bill for time that you didn't work, you are stealing and these former Boucher & James executives will be held accountable for their crimes."

            The trio is accused of defrauding 150 clients of $2.083 million from 2009 to 2018. The business' managing directors were awarded bonuses they would not have otherwise received between 2015 and 2018. Employees were awarded bonuses based on the company's performance, according to the affidavit of probable cause filed against Eisold in McGill's court.

            The defendants allegedly stole $193,288 from Richland Township and $11,000 from the Quakertown School District. Multiple municipalities, governmental entities, authorities, school districts and private businesses throughout Bucks, Montgomery, Chester, Lehigh and Monroe counties were also victims, according to information provided by authorities.

            Multiple messages left for Paul Stepanoff, Richland Township's manger, were not returned. Tim Arnold, a member of the township's board of supervisors, did not respond to an email seeking comment.

            The Quakertown district is aware of the charges brought against the engineering firm, according to a Dec. 18 statement provided by Gary Weckselblatt, its director of communications. It states that the district has been in contact with Shapiro's office.

            "The lead prosecutor from the AG's office called to inform us that we will be refunded the overpayment in the near future," Superintendent Bill Harner said in the prepared statement.
Boucher & James has been involved in several district projects since 2014. The district's news release identifies the most notable ones as the Neidig Elementary School renovation, the Sixth Grade Center parking lot paving, QNB Field as part of the high school renovation and the Tohickon Valley Elementary school parking lot paving.

            In 2018, another managing partner – while reviewing bills – discovered that Eisold had handwritten additional hours into the draft invoices of his client thereby adding employee work time billed to the client. One employee was recorded as having worked 34 hours in a single day, according to the AG's news release.

            Since the fraud came to light, Boucher & James has reconstituted the board of directors and cooperated fully in the investigation by the Office of Attorney General. The defendants resigned from their positions and the practice of overbilling ceased.

            In December, the Office of the Attorney General entered into a settlement agreement with Boucher & James in which the firm repaid more than $851,000 in overbilled funds to clients dating back to January 1, 2015. In light of these facts, the company will not be charged, according to the statement released by Shapiro's office.

            During a Dec. 14 preliminary hearing, McGill set bail for all three defendants at $10,000 unsecured. A preliminary hearing for the trio is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Feb. 17, according to information posted on a state judicial website.

            Chief Deputy Attorney General Kirsten Heine is prosecuting the case. 


 

 

 

 

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