Crime & Courts

Charge: Camden man betrayed wife, African-American friend to defraud feds of millions

Two sentenced in Columbia in massive federal construction fraud
Two sentenced in Columbia in massive federal construction fraud

Thomas Brock of Camden married his wife so he could use her status as an Air Force veteran with a service-connected disability to set up a construction company that applied for and got federal contracts worth more than $100 million, according to statements in federal court Wednesday.

The classification of Tory Brock as a disabled military veteran gave any company she headed, even on paper, a decided edge in winning fat federal government contracts intended for minorities and veterans, according to federal prosecutors.

And once married to Tory Brock, Thomas Brock siphoned off the profits from the contracts the company won and put them to his own use, assistant U.S. Attorney DeWayne Pearson told a federal judge.

Meanwhile, Brock, a white man, was also using a longtime African-American friend, electrician Cory Adams of Columbia, as a figurehead in another construction company he set up to win fat government contracts designated for minorities and worth millions.

Then Brock siphoned off profits in Adams’ company, making millions for himself, using the profits to buy real estate and using $600,000 for home renovations, Pearson said.

Those were the court statements in two sentencing hearings Wednesday, one for Tory Brock and the other for Adams.

The sentencings were part of a government prosecution case that alleged $350 million in federal contracts were unlawfully awarded to Brock-related companies, according to government statements on the case. The contracts were awarded in and out of South Carolina and many involved military bases such as Fort Jackson, Shaw AFB and Fort Bragg.

In a telephone interview after court, a lawyer for Thomas Brock said he disputes all the allegations made about him in federal court Wednesday.

Thomas Brock has filed an agreement to plead guilty to wire fraud in the matter, likely in February, but the guilty plea won’t be to anything like being the so-called “mastermind” of the scheme, said attorney Eric Laquiere.

The lawyers’ claims against Thomas Brock were neither sworn statements made under oath, nor evidence, and Brock “would say those statements are false,” Laquiere said.

However, in court Wednesday, Judge Michelle Childs accepted at face value the statements by prosecutor Pearson, the defendants and their defense attorneys. She gave each defendant three years of probation, noting they had cooperated from early on with investigators, had good work histories, expressed remorse and had no previous criminal background.

According to prosecutors and defense lawyers, neither Tory Brock nor Cory Adams played an active role in the companies Thomas Brock set up but both got good salaries – in Adams’ case, some $150,000 a year, their lawyers said.

“It doesn’t appear she had knowledge of anything that was going on other than filling out forms for the Veterans Administration that would allow her husband to continue to perpetrate the fraud,” Pearson told Childs, describing Tory Brock as a mere “figurehead.”

A ‘whirlwind courtship’

Mark Moore, Tory Brock’s lawyer, told the judge that his client spent 20-plus years in the U.S. Air Force, rising from enlisted ranks to be a captain before getting out in 2006. When she left, she had a heart murmur that qualified her as a disabled vet, Moore said.

After leaving the military in 2006, she met Thomas Brock through an internet dating service, and had her first meeting with him at Panera Bread on Garners Ferry Road in Columbia, Moore said. At that meeting, Brock learned she was a veteran with a service-connected disability – just the kind of qualification Brock needed to set up a construction company with her as the figurehead owner – and began a “whirlwind courtship,” Moore said.

“He’s a very charming fellow,” said Moore, describing Thomas Brock as the “mastermind” and “the architect behind this fraud.” After they married and the new construction company was set up, Thomas Brock began a long-term adulterous affair, which threw Tory Brock into a deep depression, Moore said.

Adams’ lawyer, I.S. Leevy Johnson, told the judge that from 2002 to 2013, Thomas Brock “essentially skimmed money that was coming in” to Adams’ company and used it “for his own enrichment.”

Judge Childs told Adams, “You appear to be the victim in this case,” then counseled him that although he might be a good electrician, he didn’t have the ability to run a business.

The charge to which both Adams and Tory Brock pleaded guilty is called misprision of a felony, which means that they not only knew that a crime was taking place, but they also took action to cover it up from government officials. In their case, it was signing off on paperwork Thomas Brock gave them to represent their companies as being qualified for special treatment to get government contracts.

Although their companies did all the construction work, the fact that they got the contracts effectively denied legitimate veteran and minority-owned companies from getting the work, prosecutors said.

In all, starting in 2002 with Adams’ company, the companies won government contracts worth some $350 million that they should not have gotten, according to government statements on the case. The contracts were awarded all over the country and many involved military bases such as Fort Jackson, Shaw AFB and Fort Bragg.