A former SeaWorld San Diego manager admitted in federal court today to embezzling $818,000 from the marine-themed amusement park company by charging for nonexistent merchandise via a phony supplier.
Wilfred David Joseph Jobin-Reyes, 47, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and tax violations, conceding that he orchestrated the crimes over a roughly eight- year period while working as a show producer at the popular tourist attraction on Mission Bay.
According to court documents, Jobin-Reyes used his supervisorial position to trick the park into paying more than 100 fake invoices from “SJ Merchandise,” a sham company he created, according to prosecutors.
SeaWorld officials ultimately grew suspicious about the bills because many of them were for amounts just under $10,000, a threshold that, if exceeded, would have triggered further scrutiny by senior management.
The company also eventually discovered that the invoiced items — for products identified by such descriptions as “wildlife animal bookmarks,” “sea creature rings,” “purple shiny ornaments” and “poinsettia in pots” — were never delivered to the park.
Investigators determined that Jobin-Reyes had created the phony paperwork using his office computer and employed aliases, including “John Caldwell,” to conceal his identity when communicating with SeaWorld about the transactions.
Additionally, Jobin-Reyes admitted that he used the sham merchandise company to cheat the Internal Revenue Service by claiming bogus expenses on his taxes.
Pretending that his business had suffered hefty losses, Jobin-Reyes reduced the amount of taxes he seemingly owed and underpaid by more than $200,000 from 2010 through 2014, prosecutors said.
In truth, none of the claimed expenses were real, because SJ Merchandise did not conduct any actual business, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego.
As part of his plea, Jobin-Reyes also admitted that he took advantage of a friend by persuading the victim to open business banking and credit accounts that he then used to receive and disburse the illegal proceeds from SeaWorld, according to prosecutors.
Jobin-Reyes left the unfortunate friend stuck with unpaid and overdue balances of at least $177,000, court documents state.
Jobin-Reyes’ ill-gotten profits funded a lavish lifestyle he could not otherwise afford, allowing him to splurge on hotels, shopping, restaurants and airline flights, according to the plea agreement.
In the year that preceded his arrest two months ago, Jobin-Reyes traveled around the nation, spending the stolen money, and even arranged to have credit cards made for family members, prosecutors said.
Jobin-Reyes, who has been held in federal detention as a flight risk since being taken into custody in Dallas is scheduled to be sentenced in August.
—City News Service
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