Joe H. Nichols, 46, has entered a plea of guilty to one count of mail fraud in connection with charitable donations from the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW), United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. Nichols of Houston was charged by criminal information last month.
The VFW is a charitable organization that supports veterans and active duty personnel who have or are serving in the United States military overseas. Today, Nichols admitted the VFW agreed to fund a communication project that would allow soldiers deployed in remote locations in Iraq to communicate with their families. Nichols agreed to assist the VFW by having his company, Prasolus, serve as project manager to get the communication hardware and software to Iraq.
The Texas VFW raised approximately $182,000 for the communication project, from which Nichols submitted invoices for payment. In June 2007, he traveled to the national headquarters of the VFW in Kansas City and induced the national VFW to give him an additional $100,000, which he said he needed to complete the communication project and deploy it to Iraq. Although the national VFW mailed a check to Nichols for $100,000, the communication system was never delivered. Instead, he used funds from the $100,000 for his personal benefit.
U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore, who accepted the guilty plea, has set sentencing for Oct. 22, 2012, at which time he faces 20 years in prison and a possible $250,000 fine. Nichols was permitted to remain on bond pending that hearing.
The investigation leading to the charges was conducted by the FBI. Assistant United States Attorney Belinda Beek is prosecuting the case.