FBI: Panda Express taken for $1 million by Atlanta fraudsters


Federal prosecutors charged two metro Atlanta men with fraud for collecting more than $1 million from the Panda Express restaurant chain for supplying non-existent employee recruits.

The U.S. Attorney's office said Friday that Dereck Cyrus, 52, of Lithonia, and Chuck Sandford, 74, of Marietta, were arraigned on charges of conspiracy and mail fraud for the scheme, which affected the restaurant chain’s units across the nation.

The family-owned company, based in Rosemead, Calif., has about 1,900 Asian food restaurants, including several outlets in metro Atlanta.

“Corporate based fraud schemes do have victims and those victims feel its impact,” said David J. LeValley, with the FBI’s office in Atlanta.

Panda Express could not immediately be reached for comment.

RELATED: Russian accused of hacking fraud extradited and charged in Atlanta

According to investigators, Cyrus and Sandford hatched the alleged theft scheme in early 2013, when Cyrus was working as an in-house recruiter for Panda Express.

At the time, Cyrus also owned a recruiting company called Diversified Recruiters, and Sandford owned a similar company called Chuck Sandford Consultants, or CSC, authorities said.

The two men began sending false invoices from their two companies to Panda Express’ bill-paying department for recruiting services, investigators said. But the “vast majority of the job candidates were either fictitious or had never been recruited by Cyrus or Sandford,” investigators said.

RELATED: Federal agency may hit SunTrust investment unit with fraud charge

Cyrus left Panda Express a couple of months after the scheme began. But the duo continued sending recruiting bills to Panda Express claiming Cyrus was still an employee, until they had collected “well over $1 million” in billings, investigators said.

Meanwhile, Sandford paid kickbacks to Cyrus once Panda Express made the payments, investigators said.

“These defendants allegedly used a false invoicing scheme to line their own pockets,” said U. S. Attorney John Horn.

“Businesses should carefully vet vendors that they do business with to make sure they do not fall victim to these schemes.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Business

Government watchdogs reject Equifax appeal on IRS contract
Government watchdogs reject Equifax appeal on IRS contract

Government watchdogs have rejected an Equifax appeal of last week’s decision by the IRS to take away a $7.25 million contract from the embattled Atlanta company. According to a report in Politico, the Government Accountability Office on Monday denied a protest filed by Equifax, which had hoped to hold on to a contract to provide help to...
Delta calls Airbus A350 its ‘new flagship aircraft’
Delta calls Airbus A350 its ‘new flagship aircraft’

Delta Air Lines’ new flagship aircraft will be its extra wide-body Airbus A350 jet, said chief operating officer Gil West. The airline will begin flying the jet Oct. 30 on its Detroit-Tokyo Narita route and also will use it to fly from Detroit to Seoul and to Beijing starting in November and in January. From Atlanta, Delta plans to ...
Kempner: Which of these startups will be a billion-dollar business?
Kempner: Which of these startups will be a billion-dollar business?

If you know anyone who’s started a business, you know being an entrepreneur trying to market something cool and new can be brutally hard. And mighty expensive. Which is why the last couple weeks have been big ones for owners of some Georgia startups. Dozens exhibited and pitched their businesses to investors or potential customers at several...
5 cheap purchases that cost you more in the long run
5 cheap purchases that cost you more in the long run

Saving money often involves finding a way to pay less for something that you want or need. But sometimes the old adage about being "penny wise, pound foolish" applies, as the cheaper way out can end up costing you. For certain purchases, spending more money up front can help you save in the long run. Trying to save a few dollars per lightbulb...
Save money, stop fraud: 4 things to watch on your credit card statement
Save money, stop fraud: 4 things to watch on your credit card statement

With credit cards, what you don't know can cost you.  Luckily, most of what you need to know is right at your fingertips − your credit card statement. Review it with a critical eye, and you'll save money, correct errors and even stop fraud.  Your transactions: Credit card companies do make errors. Review your statement every month...
More Stories