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The Ledger - EST. 1978 - Nashville Edition

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VOL. 37 | NO. 28 | Friday, July 12, 2013

2 change pleas in federal fraud case

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NASHVILLE (AP) — Two former officials of the Sommet (soh-MAY') Group have changed their pleas in what prosecutors describe as a $20 million fraud scheme.

According to The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/1dGZoDi) company Vice President of Payroll Marsha Whitfield pleaded guilty on Wednesday to one count of conspiracy and one count of wire fraud.

Her father, Edwin Todd, pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy.

Todd founded the Franklin-based Sommet Group with Whitfield's then-husband, Brian Whitfield, and the two were managing partners at the firm.

Brian Whitfield has maintained that he is innocent. His trial is scheduled for January.

Marsha Whitfield has agreed to testify against him.

The now-defunct Sommet Group handled payroll, benefits and other back-office functions for other businesses.

An indictment accuses the Whitfields of using company funds to pay for a $300,000 houseboat, a $75,000 pool, more than $30,000 in home improvements and to make a payment of $250,000 to the Nashville Predators for the rights to name the downtown arena where they play after the business.

The indictment says the money was supposed to pay federal taxes, fund 401 K plans and pay medical and prescription drug benefits of employees who worked for Sommet Group's clients.

Moreover, prosecutors say the company underpaid taxes by nearly $19 million over a three-year period.