OFFICES


OIG: Office of Inspector General
   Current Section

Investigative Reports

  U.S. Department of Justice

Roscoe C. Howard, Jr.
United States Attorney for the
District of Columbia

Judiciary Center
555 4th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 5, 2003
For Information Contact Public Affairs
Channing Phillips   (202) 514-6933

Former Department of Education employee sentenced to 54 months in prison for conspiracy and government theft - husband and son also receive prison terms

Washington, D.C. - United States Attorney Roscoe C. Howard, Jr., Michael Rolince, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Washington Field Office, John P. Higgins, Jr., Department of Education Acting Inspector General, and Environmental Protection Agency Inspector General Nikki L. Tinsley announced that Elizabeth Mellen, 56, the former Contracting Officers Technical Representative at the Department of Education was sentenced today in U.S. District Court by the Honorable Emmet G. Sullivan to serve 54 months in prison for her role as the mastermind of a conspiracy which cost the Department of Education in excess of $1,000,000. She was also ordered to perform 300 hours of community service upon her release from prison. Judge Sullivan also sentenced Elizabeth Mellen's husband, Luther E. Mellen, III, 54, former Branch Chief in the Architecture, Engineering and Real Estate Branch of the Environmental Protection Agency, to serve 27 months in prison and to pay a fine of $50,000. Elizabeth Mellen's son, Philip C. Burroughs, 29, a former manager at Ken Dixon Auto in Waldorf, Maryland, was sentenced by Judge Sullivan to serve 16 months in prison to be followed by the performance of 300 hours of community service.

Elizabeth Mellen had previously pled guilty to Conspiracy and Theft of Government Property on January 17, 2002. Philip Burroughs and Luther Mellen were both found guilty of Conspiracy to Defraud the United States and Receipt of Stolen Government Property on November 7, 2002, following a jury trial before Judge Sullivan. Burroughs was also found guilty of Theft of Government Property. Elizabeth Mellen's nephew, Jeffrey Morgan, also a former Department of Education employee, was also found guilty at that jury trial of Theft of Government Property, and was sentenced to serve 6 months in a halfway house on May 19, 2003. On that same day Maurice Hayes, a former Bell Atlantic Technician, was sentenced to serve 27 months in prison following a trial in February 2002, where he was found guilty of Conspiracy and Theft of Government Property.

During the trial, the government's evidence demonstrated that Elizabeth C. Mellen, the wife of Luther Mellen, was a Telecommunications Specialist in the Office of Chief Information Officer at the United States Department of Education (Department), who managed the Department of Education's contract with the former Bell Atlantic Federal Systems (Bell Atlantic) (now Verizon, Inc.). In that capacity, Elizabeth Mellen was responsible for the technical aspects of any project relating to the contract and served as the technical liaison between Bell Atlantic and the Contract Officer. Under the contract, materials necessary for the completion of the contract, such as wiring, telephones, and other equipment used for the installation of the telephone service, were ordered by Elizabeth Mellen through Robert Sweeney, a Bell Atlantic telephone technician who was assigned full-time to the Department and who previously pled guilty to Theft of Government Property and agreed to cooperate with the government. In turn, Bell Atlantic would order the necessary products through vendors who would deliver the products to Bell Atlantic's Washington, D.C., warehouse. Sweeney would pick up the items and deliver them to locations specified by Elizabeth Mellen. The Department was ultimately held responsible for the cost of the items.

In or before 1997, Elizabeth Mellen began asking Sweeney to order materials for her personal use and that were not related to the performance of the Department's contract. Initially these orders were sporadic and limited to telephones. The orders increased in amount and frequency in early 1997, when Elizabeth Mellen ordered a Gateway 2000 Destination computer for the house she and Luther Mellen shared. The next high-dollar item was a laptop computer that she ordered for her stepson at the request of Luther Mellen, in April 1997. Once these orders went through without any difficulty, Elizabeth Mellen began to order large quantities of electronic equipment which she kept for herself or gave to various family members or friends including her son, Philip Burroughs, from a previous marriage and her nephew, Jeffrey Morgan.

Other family members joined in by communicating their personal requests to Elizabeth Mellen. The value of her orders increased until she was ordering multiple high-dollar items at a time. In the summer of 1999, Elizabeth Mellen caused to be delivered to the home of her sister, Jeffrey Morgan's mother, a stolen Gateway Computer and multiple accessories which Morgan converted to his own use. She also gave several of her relatives, including Philip Burroughs, cellular telephones, paid for with Department funds and she ordered the use of Department funds to pay for the monthly costs associated with calls made on the telephones. In addition, on various occasions, Elizabeth Mellen provided the services of the Bell Atlantic technicians and another Department employee to install wiring or phone lines at the homes of various relatives at the Department's expense and to perform such menial tasks as washing the deck of Philip Burroughs' home, doing lawn work at his home and cleaning up yard debris. At Elizabeth Mellen's direction, the technicians in turn claimed false overtime.

This continued until December 9, 1999, when law enforcement agents executed search warrants and conducted consent searches at the home of Elizabeth Mellen and Luther Mellen and the homes of several of her relatives including defendants Philip Burroughs and Jeffrey Morgan. Subsequent investigation revealed that, overall, Elizabeth Mellen ordered for her personal use and for the use of defendants and other family members and close associates, more than $350,000 worth of goods paid for by the Department and generated over $934,000 in fraudulent labor and overtime claims. There were originally 18 co-conspirators charged in this scheme. Fourteen, including Elizabeth Mellen, pled guilty, seven of whom agreed to cooperate with the government and who testified at the trial.

In announcing the results of this prosecution, United States Attorney Howard, Acting Assistant Director Rolince, Inspector General John P. Higgins, Jr., and Inspector General Nikki L. Tinsley commended the following persons for the outstanding contributions to this case: Special Agent in Charge Gary Mathison, Special Agents Brian L. Hickey and John J. Hendrickson of the Department of Education Office of the Inspector General; Special Agent Thomas Chadwick of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Special Agent In Charge of Northeastern Investigations, Gary Fugger and Special Agent Mathew A. Walinski of the Environmental Protection Agency. They also praised the outstanding work of Assistant United States Attorneys Laura A. Ingersoll and Debra L. Long-Doyle who tried the case against Luther Mellen, Philip Burroughs and Jeffrey Morgan; and Assistant United States Attorney Gregory Marshall who tried the case against Maurice Hayes, along with former Assistant United States Attorney Barbara A. Grewe, who indicted the case.


 
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Last Modified: 02/28/2005