West Kentucky businessman, employee indicted on wire fraud charges

MURRAY, KY — A federal grand jury has indicted a west Kentucky businessman and his employee on wire fraud charges.

The indictment says Charles “Chuck” Jones and Mark Whitaker, both of Murray, schemed to defraud the federal E-Rate Program. The program helps distribute funds to schools and libraries so they can buy internet access, telecommunication services and related equipment.

The indictment says Jones personally benefited from income generated by payments from the E-Rate Program into his company’s bank accounts from 2000 to 2014. Jones was the part owner of two internet technology companies, which both participated in the FCC’s E-Rate Program. The indictment said Jones and Whitaker provided money and other gifts to a co-conspirator to steer business toward Jones’ now-closed businesses.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office says Jones and his companies received about $8.5 million from the program, and that Jones used money from the companies’ bank accounts to benefit himself.

The schools impacted by the scheme include the Crockett County School District in Tennessee and three school districts in Missouri.

An attorney for Jones sent Local 6 a statement about the indictment. In it, Jones says “Every single school with whom we contracted received internet access, equipment and/or other services as contractually outlined, and any claims stating otherwise are a fabrication in an attempt to defame my character.”

As to who is trying to defame him, Jones claims the charges are the result of a 2012 dispute with a former business partner stemming from “allegations go back nearly 20 years and have been the subject of substantial litigation.”

The statement does not explain how the 2012 lawsuit is connected to Thursday’s federal indictment.