Former assistant DA sentenced for role in conspiracy

The SE Texas Record Aug. 27, 2007, 6:16am

Wendell "Chip" Radford, Jr.

U.S. Attorney John L. Ratcliffe announced Aug. 24 that a former Jefferson County Assistant District Attorney has been sentenced for his role in a complex mail fraud scheme in the Eastern District of Texas.

Wendell "Chip" Radford Jr.,42, of Beaumont, received a 10 month sentence from U.S. District Judge Marcia Crone. Radford must serve half his sentence in federal prison and the other half in home confinement. He was also ordered to pay $393,433.53 in restitution. Radford pleaded guilty on Feb. 8 to conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

U.S. Attorney Ratcliffe said, "We live under a rule of law which does not entitle individuals to engage in this type of conduct. This crime involved a terrible lapse in judgment and I hope this sends a message to all attorneys and trusted business advisors that any breach of that trust for personal financial gain will be prosecuted and the consequences will be significant."

According to court documents, in 2003, Helena Laboratories employee Philip Guadagno, 56, of Vidor, discovered a process to dramatically improve or "derivatize" film gels, but did not disclose that discovery to Helena. Helena Labs, located in Beaumont, manufactures testing materials for the biotechnical and biopharmaceutical communities. One of Helena's principal products, QuickGel, is a film gel that scientists use to secure and analyze blood serum and other DNA samples.

Helena employees concealed the discovery and shipped the improved or "derivatized" material to an independent company in Ohio. Guadagno then used his position to cause Helena to order the derivatized material from the Ohio company at inflated prices. The Ohio company repackaged the material received from Guadagno and sent the material and an invoice back to Helena. After Helena paid the Ohio company for the derivatized material, the Ohio company kicked back most of the money to the Helena employees.

According to additional documents and Radford's testimony in court, in February 2005, Guadagno sought legal advice from Radford, and Radford agreed at that time to incorporate a consulting company for Guadagno and others. Radford formed a shell company named WindCat, LLC and opened up a bank account for WindCat.

Subsequently, Radford understood that the company was being used as a shell corporation to disguise a kickback scheme. Thereafter, WindCat submitted invoices to the Ohio company and the Ohio company paid WindCat rather than the individual Helena employees. WindCat in turn used the funds to purchase real estate in Beaumont and Crystal Beach and made cash payments to relatives of the Helena employees and others.

Radford was employed by the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office at the time of the criminal activity. He was indicted by a federal grand jury on Nov. 30, 2006.

On Nov. 30, 2006, Guadagno was named in an Information alleging one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, and pleaded guilty on Dec. 1, 2006. Guadagno received a 16 month sentence on June 1 and was ordered to serve half his sentence in federal prison and the other half in home confinement. He was also ordered to pay over $393,000.00 in restitution.

Four other Helena employees were charged with misprision of a felony, specifically concealing the mail fraud scheme. They pleaded guilty to the charges in December 2006, and were each sentenced in April 2007 to three years probation, 120 days home confinement, 300 hours community service, and restitution.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Arnold Spencer, Malcolm Bales, and Robert L. Rawls.

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