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Certifying government documents can be hazardous to HR’s health

November 16, 2015

By Anthony Kaylin, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

Although the case of Leslie Lyle Camick is a criminal case of identify fraud that did not touch HR, it should give HR professionals pause. HR submits many documents to the U.S. government , and the Camick case shows how easily HR could abet criminal falsification of material items in the documents, albeit unknowingly.

Leslie Lyle Camick is a citizen of Canada.  He entered the United States in July 2000 using the identity of his deceased brother, Wayne Bradly Camick. He did it to avoid paying back taxes and child support in Canada, and to evade the legal consequence of the permanent revocation of his Canadian driver’s license due to numerous DWI offenses. Leslie Camick’s brother died in April 1958, just four months after Leslie was born in December 1957.

In 2004, Camick became professionally and personally involved with Lyn Wattley. They bought a house together, though Wattley essentially paid for it in total.  In 2010, Camick and Wattley, along with machine welder Mark Nelson, began work on an idea Camick had for securing manhole covers. The three created prototypes and wrote technical descriptions of the invention in order to obtain a U.S. patent.

Eventually Camick’s personal relationship with Wattley went sour. During their estrangement, Camick hired a patent lawyer without Wattley’s knowledge and filed a provisional patent application for the locking manhole cover.  Camick filed the application electronically under his assumed name, Wayne Camick.

Eventually through a series of events and perpetrated frauds, Camick was caught and admitted to his identity theft. While he was in custody, Wattley filed an action to get Camick’s name off the deed.  Camick eventually filed his response late, signing it as “Wayne Camick” and swore that “all statements contained therein are true and correct.” The court responded that his response was late.  Camick then sent another letter by U.S. mail to the court, again as Wayne Camick, stating falsely that he had been unable to file a timely response to the quiet title petition because he had been “wrongfully detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement” as a result of “a falsified Police report filed by Ms. Wattley.”

In due course, the U.S. government charged Mr. Camick with one count of mail fraud based on the false information contained in the Quiet Title Letter; one count of wire fraud and one count of material false statement, both based on the false information contained in the Provisional Patent Application; three counts of aggravated identity theft predicated on the mail fraud, wire fraud, and material false statement charges among other charges.

Camick was convicted of all charges in the trial court; but he appealed.  He argued that the evidence was insufficient to convict him of mail fraud, wire fraud, material false statement, aggravated identity theft, and obstruction of justice. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with him, stating that his use of the name Wayne Camick was not material.  The court then stated that a statement is material for purposes of mail fraud as well as wire fraud if it “has a natural tendency to influence, or is capable of influencing a decision or action by another.”  In this case, his use of Wayne Camick name, the court ruled, did not rise to that level of materialness.

What this case shows, and why HR should take pause, is that Camick was indicted for wire and mail fraud on a government document because he made his false statement in a provisional application to a federal government agency.  As HR files numerous reports with the government, from EEO-1 reports to wage withholding and countless other reports, liability could arise for any “perceived” falsification of the reports.  And the HR representative who signed or certified the report could be held criminally liable as well.  Moreover, since the implementation of the Safe Workplaces and Fair Pay Executive Order (the blacklisting EO) federal contractors will have to be extra vigilant with any reporting, since a false claim act violation could be piled on to the list of actions that could impact the company.

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