HOUSTON - The managers of a Houston area Hospital were just about at their wits end. They had "purchased" a piece of medical equipment for approximately $300,000, sending half the money up front and the other half upon promise of delivery. The problem was, the Ohio company who promised to deliver the equipment never did.

Faced with having to write off the entire amount as a loss, the Hospital managers decided to fight back. They hired Mark W. Stephens to conduct an investigation. Mr. Stephens, an ex-lawman who spent sixteen years with the Houston Police Department, took the case and began investigating the Ohio company and its owners. He quickly discovered several outstanding judgments against the company, which indicated the likelihood that he company was up to no good. Then, he began to look at the facts, as compared to their version of what happened, and their story fell apart.

The Ohio company had contacted the Hospital and advised them that the equipment had already been shipped and demanded final payment. The Hospital acted in good faith and paid for the equipment. When the equipment never arrived, the Ohio company claimed the transport vehicle had been involved in an accident while enroute to the Hospital, and that the equipment had been damaged. They claimed they had already spent the money paid by the Hospital so they could not issue a refund, but that there was insurance on the equipment and they had to wait for a settlement from the insurance company. However, Mr. Stephens discovered the truth.

"It was a total con game" said Mr. Stephens. "The piece of equipment that was sold to the Hospital never existed. It was never in possession of the other company, it was never shipped to Texas, it simply never existed. They made the whole thing up."

Considering that the other company already had several outstanding judgments against them, Mr. Stephens believed the Hospital was faced with two basic options. They could go after the Ohio company in civil court, or they could proceed criminally.

"I truly believed this was a criminal case from the start. That company from Ohio illegally appropriated money from the Hospital by promising to deliver medical equipment that never existed." So, Mr. Stephens recommended that the Hospital pursue the matter as a criminal case.

"Even if they won a civil judgment against the other company, so what? There were several other companies who had already done that and still had not collected on the judgments," he reasoned. The Hospital agreed and authorized Mr. Stephens to build a criminal case against the company from Ohio.

Mr. Stephens compiled an investigative report that documented every aspect of the incident, and presented his case to the Harris County District Attorney’s office. The investigation was so persuasive, a Harris County Grand Jury was scheduled to hear the case and consider criminal charges.

"Those ‘ol boys from Ohio didn’t know what to think when they got subpoenas from a Texas Grand Jury," Mr. Stephens laughed. "Once they realized the Hospital wasn’t going to roll over like the other companies had, and that they were facing serious criminal charges, they knew it was all over."

Mr. Stephens remained in contact with the defense attorney and the Assistant District Attorney in charge of the case, and helped negotiate a deal whereby the Ohio company would not be charged criminally if they repaid the Hospital the entire $300,000.

Furthermore, in order to protect his client, Mr. Stephens insisted that the money be funneled through the defense attorney’s IOLTA account, so that if the check bounced, the attorney would also be held responsible. "He didn’t like it much, but he really didn’t have a choice," said Mr. Stephens.

The investigation came to a successful end when the District Attorney’s office called Mr. Stephens and advised that their defense attorney had sent the check. Mr. Stephens met with the Assistant District Attorney and obtained the check, which he later presented to the Hospital officials. Mr. Stephens praised the Harris County District Attorney’s office, and especially the members of their Major Fraud Division, for their decisive action and assistance with the investigation.

"The Hospital was very fortunate that this all worked out in their favor…there are a lot of other companies that are still owed money by those guys," insisted Mr. Stephens.

The Hospital was fortunate all right. Fortunate that they hired Mark W. Stephens.


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