WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — A former Cargill senior employee has been sentenced to more than four years in prison for bribery and a kickback scheme that defrauded Cargill.

Department of Justice officials say Michael A. Kennedy, 56, of Wichita, was in strategic sourcing at Cargill. They say he conspired with another Cargill employee, Chaoung “Shawn” Nguyen, and with Brian Ewert, a co-owner of WDS Inc, also known as Women’s Distribution Services Inc. WDS is a South Carolina-based company that provided non-raw materials and services to Cargill.

Court documents claim that from 2009 to 2016, Ewert provided Kennedy and Nguyen and other Cargill employees with more than $1 million in cash, gifts, and vacations in exchange for putting the interests of WDS ahead of Cargill, including concealing the fact that WDS was overcharging Cargill.

Prosecutors say that Ewert provided Kennedy and his family with lavish trips to the Caribbean on a private jet, luxury yacht rentals, ski trips and a trip to Disney World.

The court paperwork says that Kennedy and others concealed from Cargill the fact that they had received illicit bribes and kickbacks, a breach of their fiduciary duties to Cargill.

In early 2016, others within Cargill began questioning what was happening. Cargill eventually discovered the scheme and terminated its relationship with WDS and Ewert, and fired Kennedy and Nguyen.

Kennedy pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud. A judge sentenced him to 50 months (4 years and 2 months) in federal prison. He must also pay restitution in the amount of $33.7 million.

Ewert was previously sentenced to 60 months (5 years) in prison, and Nguyen got 41 months (3 years and 5 months) in prison. They were each ordered to pay $40.4 million in restitution. Jennifer Maier, another co-owner of WDS, was sentenced to 24 months (2 years) in prison. She has to pay $3.2 million in restitution.

Thanks for reaching out. Cargill prides itself on our ethical culture, which is a main reason why we have thrived as a company for over 150 years. It is always disappointing to have a member of our team violate our trust and our values.  By imposing this sentence, the Federal Court has recognized the impact that Mr. Kennedy’s crimes have had on our business and teammates. We would like to thank the FBI, USPIS and U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte for their assistance efforts to bringing this case to a satisfying conclusion.

Cargill

The FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service investigated the case. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of North Carolina prosecuted the case.