Sports equipment salesman pleads guilty to defrauding Mississippi high schools

Published 6:58 pm Monday, May 13, 2024

WASHINGTON — A former sales employee of a manufacturer and distributor of football helmets and other sports equipment pleaded guilty Monday for his role in three separate conspiracies to rig bids for sales of sports equipment to schools in Mississippi.

According to court documents, Charles Ferrell Trimm conspired with two unnamed sports equipment distributors and numerous individuals to rig bids from August 2020 through November 2022, and from May 2021 to February 2023, respectively.

Trimm pleaded guilty to two violations of the Sherman Act and one conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which could lead to as many as 30 years in prison.

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At least 100 schools throughout Mississippi and elsewhere were victims of the conspiracies. The schools were not identified in a Department of Justice release announcing Trimm’s guilty plea. A spokesperson for the DOJ said the information was not publicly available.

Trimm was a salesman for equipment manufacturer and distributor Riddell. Officials with the Vicksburg Warren School District and Porter’s Chapel Academy said they have dealt with Trimm in the past, but were not immediately sure if or how much they had been affected by his schemes.

St. Aloysius uses a different equipment company as its primary supplier and has had only limited dealings with Trimm. Tallulah Academy uses Riddell, but football coach Bart Wood said he goes through a different representative from the company.

According to the DOJ, Trimm and his co-conspirators agreed to submit complementary bids to schools located in Mississippi and elsewhere in order to obtain procurements for school sports equipment and related services,

Trimm also conspired with unnamed co-conspirators to commit wire fraud by submitting false bids to schools located in Mississippi and elsewhere from May 2016 to July 2023. As a part of this scheme, Trimm and others used an unidentified individual’s identity without authorization, including by forging the individual’s signature.

Trimm was charged with a violation of the Sherman Act. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million criminal fine. The fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime.

If convicted of the wire fraud charge, Trimm faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a criminal fine and court-ordered restitution. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

“The conspirators took advantage of schools in Mississippi by rigging bids to affect the prices schools paid for sports equipment,” U.S. Attorney Todd Gee for the Southern District of Mississippi said in a statement. “The Justice Department is committed to prosecuting these types of anti-competitive practices and ensuring that schools and other buyers can obtain goods and services from a fair and open marketplace.”