On Aug. 27, 2009, David W. Griggs, 45, of Willard, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud, theft from an organization receiving federal funds, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Griggs must forfeit $756,010 to the feds, pay $272,718 in restitution to the city and turn over a 1999 Dutchman travel trailer, which was bought with the stolen loot.
Griggs was employed by the city of Nixa as a utility worker in the city’s street department from Nov. 6, 2003, to Feb. 8, 2006. He was promoted to be the lead utility worker on Aug. 4, 2004.
Co-defendant Larry W. Covington, 50, of Ash Grove, pleaded guilty on June 1, 2010, to his role in the conspiracy to defraud the city of Nixa. Covington, who was superintendent of the street department, was employed by the city of Nixa from March 6, 2000, to February 24, 2009 when he was charged.
Griggs and Covington set up two bogus businesses – Airborne Specialist (sometimes referred to as Airborne Specialists) and Tri-State Supply – to bill the city of Nixa approximately $273,645 in goods and services for the street department that were never provided. During the course of the conspiracy, 122 fraudulent invoices were submitted to the city.
Covington admitted that he prepared purchase orders for street department supplies that were invoiced by the two fictitious businesses.
Griggs established separate post office boxes for the two businesses. When the city mailed checks payable to the businesses, they were deposited into business bank accounts and Covington and Griggs would split the proceeds.
Covington also admitted that he registered a third fictitious business with the Secretary of State's office, Ward & Spooner, and repeatedly billed the city of Nixa for goods and services that were never provided. Between Dec. 7, 2004, and Feb. 25, 2009, Covington submitted 150 fraudulent invoices totaling $482,365 to the city of Nixa.
Covington also admitted that he participated in a mail fraud conspiracy related to financial transactions involving the proceeds of the mail fraud.
Covington’s wife, Paula K. Covington, 53, of Ash Grove, pleaded guilty to money laundering in May. She bought American Kennel Club-registered Labrador retrievers and a four-hole, homemade dog trailer with her proceeds of the stolen money. When her husband was arrested on state charges on February 24, 2009, she contacted the owner of Lone Oak Retrievers and directed him to immediately sell three of the dogs.
On March 3, 2009, the owner of Lone Oak Retrievers sold three of the dogs. Paula Covington had him deposit $10,881 in another person’s account at Liberty Bank. On March 6, 2009, $10,640 was withdrawn from the Liberty Bank account and was used to purchase two cashier’s checks totaling $10,636. Both of the cashier’s checks were made payable to Advanced Bail Bonds of Ozark, Mo., for the purpose of posting bond for Larry Covington.
Paula Covington admitted that the money from the sale of the dogs represented the proceeds of mail fraud. She also admitted that the financial transactions involved – including the wire transfer of funds into Liberty Bank and the withdrawal of the funds in order to purchase the cashier’s checks to pay the bonding company – was designed to disguise the fact that the money from the fraud scheme was used to post her husbands bond.
Paula Covington will serve one year and one day in prison for her role in the crime.
Christian County Prosecutor Ron Cleek
Christian County Prosecutor Ron Cleek dropped state charges against Griggs, and the Covington's when federal prosecutors charged the trio.
No sentencing date has been set for Larry Covington, according to Don Ledford, spokesman for Western District of Missouri Attorney Beth Phillips.