A longtime employee at one of the largest power companies in the U.S. is accused of funneling more than $1 million worth of customer checks into a personal bank account over 16 years.
Some of the money helped pay for his country club membership, prosecutors said.
Gregory Thomas Holland, 63, worked at American Electric Power for nearly 36 years and lives in Roanoke, Virginia. He pleaded guilty to wire fraud and filing false tax returns and now faces up to two decades in prison, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia said in a news release.
“Mr. Holland has taken responsibility in this matter and has communicated cooperatively with the government in these regards,” attorney John E. Lichtenstein, who is representing Holland, said in a statement. “He has lived a life of substantial achievement and service to others and is committed to handling this responsibly moving forward.”
A representative for American Electric confirmed Holland worked as a collections support coordinator until he left the company in 2018.
“When we uncovered the conduct, we referred the matter to the authorities and assisted them with their investigation,” American Electric said. “No customers were adversely affected by his actions.”
Court filings show Holland was charged by criminal information in April and waived his right to an indictment in favor of pleading guilty. He was released on a personal recognizance bond, meaning he promised to return for his next court date without posting any money.
According to prosecutors, Holland started working at American Electric in 1982. The publicly traded utility company provides power to more than five million customers in 11 states, including parts of Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. Holland reportedly spent much of his career in the credit department managing the utility’s interests in customer bankruptcies, filing claims and reducing debts.
In 2001, he is accused of secretly opening a personal checking account using American Electric’s name and address.
The following year, prosecutors said Holland began depositing customer checks made payable to American Electric into the bank account he controlled. The checks were for accounts American Electric had deemed “uncollectable” and already closed, the U.S. Attorney’s Office told McClatchy News.
The payments Holland is accused of stealing came from trustees distributing what funds were left after a company declared bankruptcy and its debts were discharged. Most of the customers he dealt with were “large business bankruptcies,” officials said.
Holland reportedly used the money to cover personal expenses — including his membership dues at the Roanoke Country Club, car payments and clothing purchases.
“Between May 2002 and January 2018, Holland admitted to depositing more than 300 checks into this account,” prosecutors said. “All the money he deposited into this account belonged to AEP.”
Investigators estimate Holland stole $1.6 million from American Electric.
According to the company’s website, Holland retired in January 2018 from the Roanoke Main Office of Appalachian Power, which services American Electric customers in West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee. That’s around the same time the alleged fraud started to come to light, officials told McClatchy News.
He is also accused of failing to report the additional income on his individual tax returns from 2011 to 2017. Court documents show Holland reported $321,231 in total income for 2015 — not including the money he reportedly stole from customers.
He will be sentenced Sept. 10.