NASHVILLE – Michael W. Young, 55, formerly of Nashville who currently lives in Clermont, Fla., was sentenced on July 15 to serve two years in prison for stealing $974,000 of federal funds designated for state roadway projects and for laundering funds derived from that crime, according to U.S. attorney David Rivera.
Young was also ordered to pay $221,690 in restitution to the state, which is the balance of the stolen funds not recovered.
“Criminal breaches of public trust and theft of taxpayers’ money intended for the benefit of residents of the Middle District of Tennessee occupy a high priority with this office,” said Rivera. “Our law enforcement partners will continue to investigate such crimes and bring violators to justice.”
Young was employed from 2004-12 as a contract agent for Tennessee and was responsible for purchasing property rights-of-way for road expansions for the Tennessee Department of Transportation, with federal funding. Young admitted to Chief Judge Joseph Haynes after the property owner agreed to sell the rights-of-way, TDOT issued checks to him to complete the purchase but, instead, he used the funds for his own personal and business expenses.
Young admitted that he diverted these TDOT funds from 2004-12, when an audit disclosed the thefts and the total diverted funds had reached $974,000. Young concealed and covered the shortages of cash needed for property purchases with new funds later provided by TDOT that were intended for subsequent transactions, in the fashion of a typical “Ponzi” scheme.
Young was initially charged in criminal information filed Dec. 2, 2013.
“Some people think that stealing from the government is a victimless crime – it’s not,” said Christopher A. Henry, special agent- in-charge of the IRS-Criminal Investigation. “The victims in this case are every taxpayer of the state of Tennessee. I hope this sentence sends a clear message to those who would consider conducting or participating in this type of fraudulent activity. It will not go undetected and they will be held accountable.”
TDOT Commissioner John Schroer commended the efforts leading to the conviction.
"State agencies must be diligent in identifying schemes to defraud the public,” Schroer said. “This conviction is the result of coordinated efforts by department staff and federal authorities."
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General, FBI, IRS-Criminal Investigations and the Tennessee Department of Transportation investigated the case. Assistant U.S. attorney Hilliard Hester served as prosecutor.