A Largo man has been indicted in connection to money stolen from tuition payments from a private school in Tampa where he worked, the U.S. Department of Justice said Tuesday.
According to court documents, James John Melis, 52, emailed the parents of students at the school and requested their tuition payments, which they sent to the school’s PayPal account. The school is not named in court documents or a news release sent from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Middle District of Florida.
The indictment accuses Melis of transferring money from the school’s account into his personal bank account. He went on to spend the stolen money on vacations, jewelry and luxury items, records said.
Court documents show Melis wired $977.70 from the school’s account into his own account on Oct. 20, 2017; $488.77 on Nov. 10, 2017; $756.67 on Nov. 30, 2017; and $488.70 on Dec. 5, 2017.
The DOJ also says Melis used other people’s identities when filling out mortgage loan applications to make it appear as if he was qualified for the loans. He provided Social Security numbers and birthdates that were not his own, forged signatures and lied that he hadn’t filed for bankruptcy within seven years of the applications, according to court documents.
As part of the mortgage origination fraud scheme, authorities say he also prepared and submitted fake IRS income tax returns, as well as “fictitious satisfactions of mortgages falsely representing that his properties had equity, and lease agreements falsely showing he received substantial rental income,” the release said.
As a result, Melis received loans of $438,200 in 2018 and $684,000 in 2019, federal authorities said.
In total, Melis is accused of taking $1.1 million.
If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in federal prison for each of four counts of wire fraud, up to 30 years for each of two counts of bank fraud and two years for each of three counts of identity theft.
Melis has had previous fraud-related arrests in Pinellas County.
About a month after he was hired as the director of finances for Directions for Living, a local nonprofit, Melis changed the name on a check meant for a vendor to his own name and deposited the $2,750 check into his bank account, according to court documents. He was arrested in June 2018.
Melis pleaded guilty to scheme to defraud charges in February 2020 and paid $6,590 in restitution, records show.
In a separate case, he was accused of logging into the company’s payroll system and changing his pay from about $36 an hour to about $66. According to court records, the payroll system showed Melis logged in and made the change on May 16, 2018. He was fired on May 21, 2018.
Melis was arrested and charged with grand theft in that case in January 2019. Those charges were dropped in March 2019.