Friday, December 15, 2017
News Roundup

Court records: Valrico couple swindles $2M of gift cards and checks

TAMPA — Michelle Guy worked at HSBC Mortgage Services in Brandon for a decade. Was she a good employee? The bank's in-house recognition program might suggest so: Records show she collected gift cards and gift checks totaling $2.2 million.

But she drew those perks, up to $56,000 at a time, by forging a former supervisor's signature on invoices, according to a federal plea agreement signed by her husband, Kevin Lamar Guy, who admits he was in on the deal.

The practice went on for 4 1/2 years, the government alleges.

When the Secret Service descended on the couple's Valrico home, it was stuffed with the spoils of shopping sprees so feverish they merited a rented limo. Among the hundreds of items seized: 17 Gucci purses, 15 pairs of Chanel shoes and at least 43 pairs of True Religion jeans.

Kevin Guy, 41, the first to be charged, is expected to enter a guilty plea at his initial appearance today in U.S. District Court. He works for the Hillsborough County Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department as a recreation leader, earning about $41,000 a year.

He has no prior record. Nor does Michelle Guy, 39.

Court records do not yet reflect a statement of charges against her, but one is forthcoming, said John Joyce, special agent in charge of the Secret Service office in Tampa. The agency, which protects presidents and America's monetary system, began investigating after the financial institution reported suspicious activity.

The 12-page statement of facts set forth in Kevin Guy's plea agreement describe in detail the alleged actions of his wife:

Michelle Guy worked for HSBC Mortgages Services on Grand Regency Boulevard in Brandon from 2001 to 2011 in a variety of roles, including executive administrative assistant.

For good performance, HSBC employees earned Monopoly-style money that could be redeemed for preloaded gift cards in various denominations. The program was funded by HSBC Finance and HSBC Bank.

One of Guy's occasional duties was to order and distribute gift cards. She had access to a flex account that was not strictly audited, Joyce said.

The plea agreement provided an example: On Feb. 4, 2011, it stated, Guy sent an email from her corporate account to a representative of Altour International, a company that sold American Express gift cards and checks.

"Eleanor, I am submitting a check request for quantity 400 of $100 each gift checks and quantity 20 of $500 each gift cards. Check total is $51,319. I will also be sending you the FedEx Pak to return the order in. Thanks, Michelle Guy."

When Altour sent an invoice, Guy forged the signature of her former supervisor and forwarded the bill to accounting, the court document states.

The return mail packages were preaddressed to the Guys' residence or to Michelle Guy's attention at work.

"It was Kevin Guy's primary role to receive these packages and then deposit the proceeds of this fraud into a Bank of America account," the document states.

Investigators identified 111 such transactions beginning with a January 2007 order for $6,150 to Williamsburg Travel, which also sold gift cards. The next order wasn't placed until March. But by year's end, the document states, Michelle Guy had placed 23 orders, the highest for $12,214. In 2008, there were 23 more; 28 in 2009; 22 in 2010, and in escalating amounts. There were just 15 orders in 2011, but most were for more than $50,000.

"It amazed me that it could go on as long as it did," Joyce said. "But it was incredibly simple and, like a lot of fraud, based on the audacity of the person perpetrating the crime."

Guy acted with confidence, he said, "under the guise that if you act like you know what you're doing everyone else will think it must be okay."

Neither of the Guys could be reached for comment. Neighbors report they no longer live in the house, and the couple did not respond to messages left on their cell phones. Kevin Guy's attorney did not return a call or email. Nor did HSBC return calls.

Few understood what was happening in late 2011 when the Secret Service twice showed up at the couple's residence on Silver Trumpet Court. For hours, neighbors saw agents carry out electronics, including a 55-inch Samsung flat-screen television, and enough designer apparel to launch a boutique.

The Guys paid $295,000 for the four-bedroom house in 2007. Joyce said they spent $20,000 renovating the kitchen. The current market value is listed at $185,000.

The Guys have two children, ages 11 and 14.

Times researcher John Martin and editorial assistant Jimmy Geurts contributed to this report.

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