CLEVELAND -- A federal grand jury has indicted NASCAR racing team operator Ben E. Hess, his father and eight of his father's associates on charges of conspiracy, bankruptcy fraud and bank fraud.
The charges against Homer A. Hess, 50, Lincolnton, N.C., his son, Ben E. Hess, 26, Mooresville, N.C., and eight associates involve an alleged scheme to divert $1.2 million to support the racing team.
Ben Hess made only one Winston Cup start last season and didn't place in the top 10. Hess ranked 89th in the final point standings.
The indictment returned Wednesday in Cleveland said Homer Hess, aided and assisted by employees and associates, conspired to commit bankruptcy fraud and bank fraud from October 1986 until the indictment.
Authorities said Homer Hess operated several industrial cleaning companies in northern Ohio. He filed for federal bankruptcy protection in Canton in 1986 for a company called Proven Labor Services Inc. and in 1989 he filed for personal bankruptcy in Akron.
Prosecutors allege Hess then formed 'shell' companies, converting contracts and accounts receivable from his bankrupt company to new companies he was forming in an effort to avoid paying creditors.
He allegedly concealed and transferred $1.2 million to support the Hess racing team.
Debts listed in the bankruptcy cases totaled $27 million, with $9 million listed as assets. Assistant U.S. Attorney James Moroney said bankruptcy officials estimated the fraud at $15 million.
Homer Hess is also accused of defraduing PennBank of Erie, Pa., by disposing of collateral he had used to secure loans, and he is accused along with Donald M. Georgeoff of Bath in an alleged check-writing scheme involving the Ameritrust and Huntington banks, both headquartered in Cleveland.
Also facing charges are associates Susan A. Gessel, Wooster; Dennis Shanafelt, Medina; James McGinnis, Wooster; Geraldine E. Swartz, Warrensville Heights; Joe M. Mott, Mooresville, N.C.; Sara S. Mott, Mooresville, N.C., and Samuel J. Wormser, 51, South Euclid.