A former employee of Axiall Corp., the PVC resin and building products manufacturer acquired last year by Westlake Chemical Corp., pleaded guilty March 22 to embezzling $1.4 million from the business in a wire fraud scheme.
Wade Barbay, 54, of Baton Rouge, La., admitted to using his position of overseeing Axiall's corporate credit card program to steal the money from January 2011 through May 2016, according to Department of Justice officials.
No sentencing date has been set for Barbay, whose wire fraud case is before U.S. District Judge John W. deGravelles in Baton Rouge, La.
According to court documents, Barbay worked as the director of shared services at Axiall's Plaquemine facility, where he handled payments and reimbursements for its credit card program with American Express. For five-and-a-half years, he submitted fraudulently-inflated business expenses of other employees to Axiall headquarters in Atlanta for payment, which resulted in the company paying too much to American Express. Barbay then directed American Express to credit his account with the inflated amount.
For example, on Oct. 5, 2015, Barbay sent an email and spreadsheet to Axiall officials that falsely represented the company owing $9,401.01 more than it actually did for employees' corporate credit card expenses. Axiall wired the payment to American Express. And, then in another email, Barbay directed American Express to credit his corporate card with the $9,401.01 difference.
Similar schemes played out on at least 55 occasions totaling $1.125 million, according to court records. In addition, court filings say Barbay negotiated more than 180 corporate refund checks totaling $280,430 from American Express with those refunds being deposited in his personal bank account.
In all, the schemes resulted in Barbay "ultimately obtaining approximately $1,406,080 in Axiall funds to which he was not entitled" for his own personal use and enrichment, court documents also say.
Barbay, who had worked at the Plaquemine facility for more than 24 years, now faces forfeiture of real and personal property derived from the proceeds of the violations as well as fines, cost of imprisonment, and other penalties that could be imposed at sentencing. In the meantime, he was released on his own recognizance with special conditions.
Acting U.S. Attorney Corey Amundson thanked company officials for uncovering the fraud and assisting with the case. Axiall was acquired by Westlake for $3.8 billion in June 2016.
"Fraud schemes perpetrated by insiders, particularly those entrusted with an organization's finances, pose a serious threat to all organizations and, by extension, their employees," Amundson said in a news release. "Once identified, these fraudsters must not be allowed to simply move to their next victim employer. Employers and law enforcement must work together to stop them."