NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A Norfolk business owner is facing federal charges, accused of stealing almost $1 million from his customers.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Louisville, Kentucky says that from December 1, 2012 to April 14, 2014, Mark Hartley devised a scheme to defraud First Citizens Bank and its customers.
Hartley owned Patriot Computers on Tidewater Drive in Norfolk. Former employees say he sold computer equipment to military families.
Investigators say customers of Patriot Computers agreed to have specified amounts of money taken from their paychecks on a regular basis, until their purchases were paid in full. These customers completed payment authorization forms for the payment arrangements, and then Patriot Computers submitted the forms to First Citizens Bank in Hardin County, Kentucky.
First Citizens Bank, through its bill payment service, would then transfer the payments from each customer’s paycheck to Patriot Computers’ account at Wells Fargo Bank, until the customer’s contract with Patriot Computers was paid in full.
Federal investigators say Hartley created fake payment authorization forms and emailed them to First Citizens Bank, and that’s how he stole $809,205.43 over the course of several years. Most of the money belonged to military families.
“It’s sad, you know?” said former employee Tyree Ethridge. “The fact that he thought he could get away with it is what puzzles me the most.”
“When I heard about how much money it was, I was totally shocked,” added former employee Clayton Callihan. “I had no idea it could be that much money.”
Former employees say Hartley shut down the business a little more than a week ago.
10 On Your learned Hartley no longer lives in Hampton Roads. We talked with him on the phone, and he told us he believes he is not guilty, but he wouldn’t go into the charges.
Hartley is scheduled for trial September 9. If convicted, Hartley could be sentenced to no more than 20 years in prison for each count, fined $250,000 for each count and sentenced to three years of supervised release.