Seller bilked University yearbook

The former salesman of GW’s yearbook pleaded guilty to mail fraud after bilking several organizations – including GW – out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Joseph Wenzl, who worked for the Dallas-based company Taylor Publishing, was indicted in May 2006 on 15 counts, according to papers filed in a Maryland District Court several weeks ago. Wenzl was the regional sales reprehensive for GW from 1998 until 2002. He served schools mostly in the Maryland and D.C. areas.

Each count represented a different school’s case, and Wenzl pleaded guilty to his dealings with the Naval Academy, said Joseph Schissler, the U.S. Postal Inspector assigned to the case. The other counts were dropped as part of a plea deal. Wenzel profited more than $400,000, Schissler wrote in an e-mail.

Other schools involved in the case include Howard University and various Virginia and D.C. high schools.

Wenzl negotiated a discounted price with Taylor Publishing and then charged his clients a higher price – citing market pressures – according to a Maryland U.S. Attorney’s office news release. Neither the publisher nor the schools were aware of the discrepancies, the release states.

Deborah Snelgrove, senior executive director and chief creative officer for Student Academic Support Services and faculty adviser of the Cherry Tree, said GW fully cooperated in the investigation. She added no one in the GW community was subpoenaed.

“GW and the Cherry Tree Yearbook continue to publish the yearbook with Taylor Publishing, which has good standing as a cost-competitive industry leader in yearbook publishing,” Snelgrove wrote in an e-mail.

She added there was “no reason to suspect (wrongdoing) because Taylor’s printing costs were always competitive to industry standards.”

Taylor Publishing conducted an internal investigation and referred the case to the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office in 2003.

Mike Cobb, marketing director at Taylor Publishing, said his company is glad the case finally reached a conclusion.

“Corporately, we are not able to comment on it in any way, but we’re glad it’s closed,” Cobb said.

Under the plea agreement, Wenzl faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and three years of supervised release. The maximum sentence for mail fraud is 20 years in prison.

The amount of money in this case is not an unusual sum in federal mail fraud cases, Schissler said.

“Compared to other federal cases that involve mail fraud, this is not an (unusually) large amount. They usually go into the millions. This one is not necessarily (unusually) large,” Schissler said.

Tracy Schario, a University spokeswoman, said GW is happy to be finished with the investigation.

“As far as we’re concerned, the issue is behind us,” Schario said.

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