Sentencing hearing canceled in UCI case

A sentencing hearing for Jerry F. Wells Jr., who admitted stealing $2.97 million from his Columbia-based employer, has been canceled.

Wells, former chief financial officer for UCI Medical Affiliates, manager of Doctors Care medical clinics, had been scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court.

No new sentencing date has been set.

Court documents show Wells is challenging a sentencing recommendation that could land him in prison for more than seven years.

The court agreed to cancel the sentencing as Wells seeks financial records prosecutors cited to bolster their argument for a lengthy sentence.

"We need the time to give us a chance to respond to government allegations," Wells' attorney John Barton said Thursday. "We will be issuing subpoenas to obtain records, and that takes time."

Wells agreed July 23 to waive indictment and to plead guilty to eight counts of filing false financial statements with the Securities Exchange Commission. He also agreed to repay UCI, his employer since 1995.

Wells, a certified public accountant who holds a master's degree from USC, could have faced up to 40 years in prison and fined up to $2 million. Prosecutors recommended a prison sentence of 70 to 87 months.

Wells originally was scheduled to be sentenced in October.

In a sentencing memo, prosecutors cited the impact the thefts had on UCI stock, which had to be delisted from the over-the-counter market. The company still is sorting out its balance sheets and has yet to file an annual report for 2008.

The memo also states that a shortage of cash resulting from the thefts caused some employees' checks to bounce. And it adds that the cash crunch led to layoffs and trimming of work hours for some employees.

Prosecutors charged that Wells stole the money by using his corporate credit card for personal expenses, preparing false expense reports and submitting them for reimbursement.

Wells also submitted check requests for nonbusiness expenses, which covered construction work on his homes in Columbia and Fripp Island, according to court records.

Wells was fired by UCI in December 2008 after the money was discovered missing.