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Three Plead Guilty to Misappropriation of a Federal Grant

U.S. Attorney’s Office December 09, 2009
  • Southern District of West Virginia (304) 345-2200

CHARLESTON, WV—Three people pled guilty yesterday to their roles in the misappropriation of a federal grant. Mary Jane Bowling, 59, and Christine Karen Gardner, 58, both of Cross Lanes, West Virginia, and Albert Hendershot, 62, of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, pled guilty before United States District Judge John T. Copenhaver, Jr.

The convictions stem from an investigation jointly conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the West Virginia Commission on Special Investigations. The investigation revealed that Bowling, while employed as the Program Manager for the “State Set-Aside Program” for WORKFORCE WV, administered federal grant funds provided to the State of West Virginia from the U.S. Department of Labor pursuant to the Workforce Investment Act of 1998. The grants, doled out annually from WORKFORCE WV to public and private entities across the state, provide funding for employment training and workforce development.

Bowling admitted she used her position to influence the award of a $100,000 grant to VEC3, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of COMAR, Inc., during the 2008-09 funding cycle. Bowling's son, Martin Bowling, served as VEC3’s Chief Technical Officer. She did not disclose this relationship to her supervisors during the grant review process.

The investigation further revealed that in July 2009, after VEC3 received the grant, Hendershot, COMAR’s President, diverted $5,000 of the grant funds to Martin Bowling as a “bonus” for helping obtain the grant. To disguise the payment, Hendershot and Martin Bowling agreed that Hendershot would draft the check to Bowling’s then-girlfriend, now wife. Martin Bowling created a contract and invoice to submit to WORKFORCE WV that showed his girlfriend performed “a needs assessment study for small businesses.” His girlfriend provided no services under the grant.

Further, Martin Bowling created false invoices to pay Gardner, his godmother, $5,000 for helping him write the grant in March and April 2009. The grant guidelines specifically prohibit COMAR from using grant funds to pay expenses incurred before July 1, 2008, when the grant was officially awarded. Gardner, an economic development specialist for West Virginia State University Extension Office, was aware of this prohibition. Gardner submitted an invoice indicating that she provided “professional consultation” services from July 10 to July 21, 2008.

Martin Bowling previously pled guilty on August 25, 2009, for his role in the fraud. Mary Jane Bowling, Gardner and Hendershot each face up to two years’ imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, restitution, and three years of supervised release as a result of the charges. Sentencing is set for March 17, 2010.

Assistant United States Attorney Thomas C. Ryan is handling the prosecution.

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