Prosecutors: Local CPA to plead guilty to embezzling from local company

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

BIRMINGHAM – A 69-year-old Birmingham man, through a plea agreement with prosecutors, has agreed to plead guilty to wire fraud charges tied to an $11 million embezzlement scheme from a Shelby County-based scrap metal brokerage company where he was the chief financial officer, according to U.S. District Court documents.

Acting U.S. Attorney Robert O. Posey and FBI Special Agent in Charge Roger Stanton announced the charges and the plea deal on Jan. 30.

In a five-count information filed in U.S. District Court, the U.S. Attorney’s Office charged Thomas L. Hinson Jr. with five counts of wire fraud for depositing checks stolen from Strickland Trading Inc., where he worked as CFO, into the account of Strickland Trading Company, LLC, a company Hinson formed for the purpose of perpetrating his scheme. Strickland Trading Inc. is based in Shelby County’s Shoal Creek community.

The wire fraud counts represent five of the more than 225 checks totaling more than $11.2 million intended for Strickland Trading Inc., but which Hinson deposited into his Strickland Trading Company, LLC, account, between April 2007 and April 2016.

Hinson used the money he embezzled from Strickland Trading Inc. over the years to pay expenses and purchase real estate, automobiles and other assets for himself, his family and friends.

In conjunction with the charges, prosecutors filed a plea agreement with Hinson in which he acknowledged the embezzlement and agreed to plead guilty to the fraud charges. He also agreed to pay restitution of $11.2 million and to forfeit his interest in properties in Huntsville, Birmingham, Virginia Beach, Virginia, Lutz, Florida, and Sevierville, Tennessee

According to the court documents, Hinson conducted his scheme as follows:

“Hinson was a certified public accountant in private practice who worked for Strickland Trading Inc. from 1991 to April 2016. In 2000, he began working as Strickland Trading Inc.’s CFO. In April 2007, Hinson filed documents with the State of Alabama creating Strickland Trading Company, LLC, and provided the name and address of a friend in Madison County as its organizer so he could conceal his own association with the new company.

Using the similarity in the names of the two companies, Hinson took checks mailed to Strickland Trading Inc. by its customers and deposited the checks into his Strickland Trading Company, LLC, account for his personal use.  He made false entries in the financial records of Strickland Trading Inc., prepared false financial statements and made other false representations to Strickland Trading Inc. corporate officers to conceal his embezzlement.”

The maximum penalty for wire fraud is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The FBI investigated the case, which Assistant U.S. Attorney George Martin is prosecuting.