TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The U.S. Department of Justice announced that a Largo man has been charged with stealing tuition while working at a private school in Tampa.
A DOJ statement said James John Melis, 53, of Largo “abused his position as business manager at a private school in Tampa” by linking his personal bank account to the school’s PayPal account.
In doing so, Melis would transfer the parents’ tuition fees to his personal account, according to authorities.
Melis was accused of spending the stolen money on travel, jewelry and other luxury goods.
The DOJ indictment also charged Melis with a mortgage fraud scheme in which he used another person’s identity for loan applications to convince a lender he was a qualified borrower.
“Melis used another person’s personally identifying information on loan applications, and prepared and submitted false and fraudulent IRS tax returns, fictitious mortgage satisfactions falsely representing that his properties had equity and rental agreements that falsely show he received substantial rental income,” the DOJ said. “As part of this scheme, Melis used other people’s identifications and forged their signatures on fictitious mortgage satisfactions and false rental agreements submitted to the mortgage lender.”
In 2019, Melis spoke to 8 On Your Side after being accused of increasing his own salary by changing his company’s payroll system. The defendant, who worked for Directions for Living at the time, denied the allegations.
The federal indictment says Melis was charged with four counts of wire fraud, two counts of bank fraud and three counts of aggravated identity theft.
He faces 20 years for each count of wire fraud, 30 years for each county of bank fraud and a consecutive 2-year sentence for the identity theft charges if convicted.
The feds are also seeking forfeiture of $1.1 million from Melis, the amount he was accused of earning from the alleged crimes.