The former finance manager for one of the Southeast’s largest corporate event production firms was sentenced to five years in prison Monday for siphoning off more than $800,000 from the company.
"I’m just incredibly sorry for having done something so stupid," John Scott Jarrett of Summerville told U.S. District Court Judge Gergel before he was sentenced for wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.
Jarrett pleaded guilty to the charges in exchange for a reduced sentence. The maximum for wire fraud was 20 years, with an additional two years for the aggravated identity theft.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Rhett DeHart asked Gergel not to go below the recommended sentencing guidelines.
"(Jarrett) had a long time to think about what he was doing," DeHart said. "It was a fairly complicated scheme."
Over a period of five years, between 2012 and 2017, Jarrett wrote about $500,000 in checks from Production Design Associates of North Charleston to pay a fake contractor, depositing the money into an account he controlled.
He also got another $300,000 in loans from online lenders using the name and Social Security number of the company's owner, Jeff Nickles. That money went into a company account that Nickles was led to believe had been closed.
The lenders forgave some of the loans after Jarrett was indicted, leaving about $690,000 to be repaid after he gets out of prison. His attorney, Christopher Lizzi, said Jarrett is selling his house and taking some of his wife's retirement money to repay $170,000.
PDA provides lighting, audio and staging services for big events. It clients have included Boeing Co., the PGA Championship and the White House.
Nickles told Gergel that the scheme was damaging. He said he had to lay off workers because of lost income, couldn’t give raises and lost talent to competitors.
"This is something it will take years for us to recover from," Nickles told the judge. "I have trust issues that will never go away."
Despite pleas for a reduced sentence from several of Jarrett's family members, Gergel came down about in the middle of the recommended guidelines.
"The character of this crime, the methodical nature, is serious," he said.