A Woodbine man was sentenced to 2½ years in federal prison on mail fraud charges over faked fundraising appeals for nonprofits.
Chester William Bigelow, 58, will also serve three years of supervised release, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the State of Maryland.
Bigelow ran (and had a 65 percent ownership stake in) RMS Direct Inc., a Frederick-based mail preparation service, according to his plea. The company did $5 million in business a year and had more than 200 clients, many of them nonprofit companies that used RMS Direct’s mailing service to send out fundraising appeals.
The timing of the mailings was essential to their fundraising efforts, a statement announcing the sentencing noted.
In 2005, Bigelow and Stephen Reid, RMS’s vice president, faked postage statements to their clients so that it looked like mailings were being sent out on time when they were actually being sent out late, according to the statement.
And then in 2009, Bigelow and Reid stopped submitting some mailings to the USPS at all, the statement said.
Bigelow and Reid made sure that the documentation sent to the RMS client was falsified to indicate that the full mailing had been submitted, thereby causing the client to overpay RMS for postage and services, the statement said.
As a result of the scheme, at least 19 victims lost a total of $628,581.48, according to the statement.
Reid, 51, of Frederick, who pleaded guilty to the same charge, was sentenced on July 12, according to U.S. Attorney spokeswoman Marcia Murphy. He received two years in prison and has also been ordered to pay restitution of $628,581.48, according to the statement announcing Bigelow’s sentencing.
Joseph Murtha, Bigelow’s attorney, attributed his client’s actions to the faltering economy and the loss of an important client.
“Mr. Bigelow was an individual who had worked very hard to build RMS Direct into a company that provided excellent service to its clients and jobs to people in the Frederick community. Unfortunately, as a result of the economic downturn and the loss of a rather substantial client resulted in Mr. Bigelow and Mr. Reid making a bad decision that resulted in their prosecution,” Joseph Murtha said.
Murtha said that Bigelow was regretful.
“To the clients that have contacted him, he’s expressed regret, and his remorse, through his acceptance of his responsibility of wrongdoing,” Murtha said.