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Maryland tire importer faces fraud charges
Firm’s invoices called ‘deceptive’
By appearances, the past decade has been good for Sanjeet “Sonny” Veen, with his Rockville, Md.-based international tire business posting millions of dollars in revenue annually.
Along with the success, Mr. Veen, his family and his businesses became generous donors to candidates from both major political parties — including Republican Michael S. Steele in his 2006 U.S. Senate bid in Maryland and to Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker and D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray, both Democrats, in their victorious campaigns.
However, Mr. Veen’s success, along with his freedom, now stand threatened by a pending federal indictment in Mississippi. Mr. Veen is free on $1 million bond after federal prosecutors this past fall accused him of swindling millions of dollars from one of nation’s largest tire dealers.
The charges, filed by the U.S. attorney’s office in Oxford, Miss., carry up to 20 years in prison. The 70-count indictment accuses Mr. Veen of bilking more than $7 million from Dunlap & Kyle Co. Inc., a big tire-distribution company in Batesville, Miss., with stores in several states.
Thomas Kelly, an attorney for Mr. Veen, declined to comment, citing the pending case. The lawyer also said Mr. Veen was not available to comment. Mr. Veen has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Prosecutors say Dunlap ordered tires from foreign manufacturers through Mr. Veen, whose tire company, Orteck Global Supply and Distribution Co. LLC, placed orders with overseas tire companies. Those foreign companies would ship the tires to the U.S. in large metal containers, authorities say.
From March 2009 to February 2010, prosecutors say, Mr. Veen sent “deceptive invoices” to Dunlap for tires that were never received by Dunlap, its stores and affiliated companies, according to the charges.
“At Veen’s direction, fictitious shipping container numbers were used on the deceptive invoices, to create the appearance that particular tire orders were being shipped, or would be shipped, by the factories in the identified shipping containers,” the indictment said.
To keep the scheme alive, prosecutors say, Mr. Veen would blame the mistakes on the foreign tire manufacturers and would tell Dunlap he would handle the problem himself with the factories.
In recent court filings in the case, prosecutors outlined some of the evidence being turned over to Mr. Veen’s defense attorney, including photographs taken during a search of Mr. Veen’s offices, bank records and a computer hard drive.
Authorities also turned over eight DVDs containing depositions Mr. Veen gave in connection with a recent civil lawsuit in Maryland between Orteck International and Transpacific Tire & Wheel Inc.
In March 2010, a federal judge in Maryland ruled on the side of Transpacific in the company’s business dispute with Orteck International. Transpacific had said in a lawsuit that it shipped hundreds of thousands of dollars in tires to Orteck, which in turn sold them at “fire-sale” prices, but failed to pay Transpacific.
Orteck argued in court that there were questions about whether Transpacific ever delivered the tires, saying the company should have to present “a very specific paper trail” to prove delivery, according to court records.
Attorneys for both sides are arguing in court about whether Mr. Veen and Orteck Global can be held liable for the judgment.
Meanwhile, a federal judge in October denied a motion by Mr. Veen to overturn a court order directing the U.S. Marshals Service to levy five vehicles: a 2007 Mercedes Benz, a 2006 Mercedes Benz, a 1997 Chevrolet van, a 2001 Lexus and a 2004 Chevrolet van.
Mr. Veen’s trial in the Mississippi criminal case was scheduled for last month but was postponed twice, and now is set for Sept. 26.
In a recent court filing calling for a postponement, Michael Watts, one of Mr. Veen’s defense attorneys, cited “the complex nature of the case” and the “volume of documents” involved in asking for more time.
State and federal campaign records show Mr. Veen and companies where he is an officer have given more than $10,000 in contributions over the past decade to Democrats and Republicans. In 2006, he was among a group of fundraisers profiled in the newspaper Roll Call. The fundraising group, Indians Americans for Allen, backed the re-election of Sen. George Allen, Virginia Republican, who lost to Democrat Jim Webb.
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