Four family members who operated a staffing agency in Lowell, Massachusetts were sentenced to prison this week on charges relating to a scheme to hide over $25 million in employee wages from the Internal Revenue Service.

Margaret Mathes, 67, was sentenced to 80 months in prison. Her daughter, Bosea Prum, 47, was sentenced to two years. Prum’s brother-in-law, Sam Pich, 63, was given the same sentence. Prum’s husband, Thaworn Promket, 52, was sentenced to one year and a day in prison.

All of them were also ordered to pay over $6 million in back taxes and workers compensation premiums. 

The Charges

Last summer the four pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the IRS, mail fraud, and to violating laws against structuring monetary transactions to avoid reporting requirements. 

Prum also pleaded guilty to 10 counts of filing false employment tax returns, six counts of mail fraud, and two counts of structuring monetary transactions. 

Pich also pleaded guilty to 17 counts of assisting the filing of false employment tax returns, six counts of mail fraud, and two counts of structuring monetary transactions. 

Promket also pleaded guilty to seven counts of filing false employment tax returns, six counts of mail fraud, and two counts of structuring monetary transactions.

The charges arose from a temporary employment agency in Lowell that the defendants operated that provided unskilled labor to local companies, including those in the packaging and food services industries. 

The Scheme

Between 2004 and 2009, the FBI says the defendants reported to the IRS that their temporary employees made about $2.2 million in wages, when the real figure was nearly $30 million. 

The defendants also defrauded the agency’s workers compensation insurer, Granite State Insurance Co., by hiding the true number of temporary workers the defendants employed, thus avoiding about $880,000 in insurance premiums. 

As part of the conspiracy to help cover up the unreported worker wages, the defendants withdrew cash from about 20 bank accounts and paid their temporary workers “off the books.” 

To further ensure that they would not be caught, the defendants structured these bank transactions—over 4,300 in all—so they could withdraw the cash needed to pay the workers without triggering federal reporting requirements.

In the weeks leading up to the sentencing hearing, the government also developed evidence that defendant Mathes, with the help of her daughter, tried to mislead the Court about Mathes’s medical condition. 

Mathes had recently been diagnosed with possible Alzheimer’s Disease, after which she greatly exaggerated her symptoms in an effort to win a shorter sentence. At sentencing, the Court imposed an obstruction enhancement on both Mathes and her daughter, Prum.