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|COLUMBIA MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO THEFT FROM GENERAL MOTORS SPRING HILL FACILITY AND FILING A FALSE TAX RETURN|
Anthony Praino, 51, of Columbia, Tennessee, pleaded guilty yesterday in U.S. District Court to interstate transportation of stolen property and filing a false tax return, announced David Rivera, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee. The charges stemmed from a joint investigation conducted by the Maury County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI and the IRS-Criminal Investigation, which revealed that in 2011 and 2012, Praino stole nearly a million dollars’ worth of equipment from the General Motors (GM) Spring Hill, Tenn. Plant and then failed to disclose to the IRS the $145,000 profit he received from the sale of the stolen equipment.
Testimony presented at the guilty plea hearing before District Judge Todd Campbell established that in 2011 GM investigators discovered that a significant amount of expensive equipment was missing from their Spring Hill plant, where Praino was employed as a fork lift operator. Praino emerged as the prime suspect when GM investigators identified some missing equipment being advertised for sale on eBay, and then clandestinely purchased it.
When the equipment was delivered to them, the return address for the sender was determined to be Praino’s. GM referred the matter to the Maury County Sheriff’s Office, who in turn alerted the FBI and the IRS, given the value and volume of the stolen property.
In April 2012, while agents were conducting surveillance, they observed Praino depositing a large parcel for delivery by a commercial shipping company. Agents quickly determined that the package contained expensive, stolen GM equipment, and was to be delivered to Thailand. Agents obtained and executed a search warrant for Praino’s home in Columbia, Tenn. and found more equipment that had been stolen from the Spring Hill GM facility, which was worth over $500,000.
Follow up investigation disclosed that Praino had received more than $145,000 from selling the stolen GM equipment, which he failed to disclose when filing his tax return. He owed, but failed to pay about $48,000 in additional income tax for that income, which constituted a second separate federal crime. Praino faces a maximum of 13 years in prison and an order of restitution.
The case was investigated by the FBI, the IRS-Criminal Investigation and the Maury County Sheriff’s Department. The government was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Hilliard Hester.