(CN) - In what prosecutors called the biggest postage fraud in history, a Houston businessman was sentenced to 14 years in prison and ordered to pay $16 million in restitution.
Neal Lim, 50, was convicted in February if using counterfeit postage meter machines to defraud the Post Office. Lim owned one of the largest mail-sorting operations in Houston: Gulf Coast Presort, the Mail Processing Center, and a satellite office in Humble.
In sentencing him, U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas said that "in 16 years on the bench, this is the most extensive fraud I have seen outside of securities fraud." She said experts were needed to unravel Lim's "sophisticated ... gross, massive fraud."
Prosecutors said: "Profits from Lim's scheme represent the largest counterfeit postage loss in the history of the U.S. Postal Service and the greatest breach of security features of postage meter machines."
Lim was convicted of all seven counts: conspiracy to commit mail fraud, two counts of mail fraud and four counts of possession of counterfeit postage meter machines.
His businesses were third-party mailers and sorters that did mass mailings for clients and got discounts from the Post Office for sorting the mail. Lim's included county offices, financial institutions and other businesses.
Authorities used statistical sampling to determine that the amount of mail Lim's companies processed exceeded the amount of pre-paid postage available on his postage machines, to the tune of millions of dollars over 4 years.
Five co-defendants have pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit mail fraud and are awaiting sentence. Four face up 5 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000. Charges against the fifth were dismissed after he died.