BENTON — A Herrin man pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to charges that he lied to the government about outside income.
A news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office says as part of his guilty plea, Shawn E. Whitecotton, 49, admitted to concealing from the federal government thousands of dollars he received from a government contractor.
The release states that, according to court documents, Whitecotton was the factory manager of the UNICOR manufacturing facility operating within the federal penitentiary in Marion. In 2014, the prison's UNICOR facility contracted with a private company, PGB Hangers LLC, to manufacture wire clothing hangers.
As the UNICOR factory manager, the release states, Whitecotton was responsible for overseeing the contract and that after the work began, Whitecotton convinced PGB to hire him as a salesperson. He created a new entity — TRCB LLC — to engage in his side job and subsequently received over $20,000 in payments from PGB, according to the U.S. attorney.
The release says as a supervisory employee in the executive branch of the United States, Whitecotton was required to annually report his financial interests, any outside employment activities, and any positions held outside his role at the prison. The purpose of this requirement is to uncover any possible conflicts of interest a supervisory employee may have in the performance of his or her duties, according to the release. The forms require disclosure of any sources of income over $200.
In court documents, Whitecotton admitted that he knowingly and willfully failed to disclose his work for PGB and the payments he received as outside income, the release states. Whitecotton also admitted that when it appeared his unlawful conduct would be discovered, he took steps to suppress or interfere with investigators’ discovery of the truth, including by unlawfully instructing a witness to lie about Whitecotton’s involvement with TRCB and receipt of payments from PGB.
Sentencing will take place at 10 a.m. March 11, 2021, at the federal courthouse in Benton. Whitecotton faces up to five years in prison and a fine up to $250,000 on each count.
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