SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4) – A Utah man found himself in federal court on Tuesday, Jan. 31, accused of participating in a long-running scheme of sending fake invoices on behalf of a shell company to defraud an organic produce distributor out of $5.8 million.

Kevin Scott Horton, 55, of Saratoga Springs, is charged with seven counts of mail fraud. A press release from the U.S. Dept. of Justice states he pleaded not guilty to the charges and a March 28 trial date in Los Angeles has been scheduled.

According to the indictment and other court documents, from February 2000 to April 2018, Horton and Tony Anhtuan Rawlings, 56, of Garden Grove, the management information systems director at Melissa’s World Variety Produce Inc., based in Vernon, schemed to defraud the company out of its money through the “approval of payment of invoices for fictitious services.”

In February 2000, Horton allegedly created a shell company called Creative Network Solutions (CNS). At Rawlings’s instruction, Horton allegedly created one or two fake invoices per month, in which CNS billed Melissa’s for services that they did not actually provide.

Horton reportedly provided the fake invoices to Rawlings, who approved them and then provided them to a Melissa’s executive. The executive would then ensure Melissa’s paid CNS the amounts listed on the sham invoices, the indictment alleges.

“Rawlings falsely represented to Melissa’s executives that CNS provided information technology and information systems services to Melissa’s,” the release states.

In fact, Horton had “no background in computers” and CNS “never provided services to Melissa’s or any other company,” the indictment states.

Horton, along with Rawlings, allegedly caused Melissa’s to send CNS payment in the form of checks mailed through the United States Postal Service. The release states Horton deposited the checks he received through the scheme into a bank account that he controlled.

He reportedly then gave Rawlings a portion of the money that Melissa’s paid to CNS to an address in Irvine that Rawlings controlled.

In total, the pair allegedly caused Melissa’s to pay CNS approximately $5,805,504 because of the fake invoices.

If convicted of all charges, Horton would reportedly face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for each mail fraud count. Rawlings pleaded guilty in August 2022 to one count of mail fraud. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for June 1.

The FBI conducted the investigation into this case.