Gregory J. Haanstad, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, announced that on March 6, 2017, Thomas C. Balsiger (age: 63) of El Paso, Texas, was sentenced in Federal Court in Milwaukee to 10 years in prison to be followed by 3 years’ supervised release. Mr. Balsiger also was ordered to pay over $65 million in restitution.
In December 2016, following a month-long trial, Mr. Balsiger, the former CEO of the nation’s largest coupon clearinghouse (International Outsourcing Services), was found guilty of 10 counts of wire fraud, one count of wire fraud conspiracy, and one count of conspiring to obstruct justice.
During the sentencing hearing, Senior United States District Court Judge Charles N. Clevert remarked that in his 20 years as a judge he had never seen a more sophisticated fraud scheme as the one designed and executed by Mr. Balsiger. Judge Clevert referred to Mr. Balsiger as a “chameleon” and a “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” who could be positively involved in his community while orchestrating a wide-ranging fraud scheme and directing a relentless effort to obstruct justice. During the sentencing hearing, Judge Clevert noted and adopted factual findings in the pre-sentence report establishing that Mr. Balsiger: (1) provided and directed others to provide false information to law enforcement and grand jury subpoena recipients, (2) coached witnesses to lie, (3) sought to intimidate and prevent witnesses from communicating with law enforcement – including dispatching a private investigator to “menace” a witness, (4) falsely blamed cooperating witnesses for his own criminal conduct, and (5) perjured himself at trial. Judge Clevert also found that Mr. Balsiger’s “unwarranted attacks” and attempts to intimidate and threaten the prosecution team were “beyond the pale” and the “worst abuse” of the judicial process that he had seen during his tenure as a judge.
In rejecting Mr. Balsiger’s request for a probationary sentence, which Judge Clevert found to be “totally inappropriate,” he further noted that Mr. Balsiger’s leadership role in the fraud and obstruction “scream for a period of incarceration.” The Court added that Mr. Balsiger’s “conduct ill-affected the consuming public.” The Court previously noted in a codefendant’s sentencing that this scheme “shook the coupon industry.”
United States Attorney Haanstad noted, “The investigation that ultimately led to the prosecution and conviction of Mr. Balsiger and his codefendants stemmed from a single Milwaukee store owner contacting law enforcement to report that someone had offered her money to use her store’s name to submit fraudulent coupons. Because this store owner did the right thing and contacted law enforcement, investigators ultimately were able to identify multiple coupon fraud rings and expose the wide-ranging fraud scheme designed by Mr. Balsiger.”
FBI Special Agent in Charge Justin Tomoleo said of the sentence: “Through the dedicated work of our Special Agents and staff, the Milwaukee FBI remains committed to protecting Americans from fraudulent schemes that affect everyday life. The widespread grocery coupon fraud, perpetrated by Mr. Balsiger and others, cost our community millions of dollars. We expect this sentencing to serve as a warning to any future offenders looking to defraud the American people.”
This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Richard G. Frohling, Kelly B. Watzka, Stephen A. Ingraham, and Zachary J. Corey. The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.