Yearbook salesman who cheated GW convicted of fraud

Wednesday, June 4

A former seller of GW’s yearbook was convicted of mail fraud last week and sentenced to more than two years in prison for cheating GW and several other area schools out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to a news release from the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s office.

Joseph Wenzl, 41, was the regional yearbook salesman for Taylor Publishing from May 2000 to Jan. 2003 and fraudulently obtained more than $700,000 from GW, Howard and the U.S. Naval Academy, among other schools. He persuaded his publisher to price yearbooks at a discounted rate while he sold the books at a higher price, according to his plea agreement.

The former yearbook salesman faces a 27-month prison sentence with three years supervised release. He was also must pay more than $555,000 in restitution.

The investigation into Wenzl’s practices began in 2003 by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Wenzl was then indicted in April 2006.

In his role as a seller for GW’s yearbook – The Cherry Tree – Wenzl stole more than $7,300 from the University through a double-billing scheme, U.S. Postal Inspector Frank Schissler wrote in an e-mail. Wenzl personally charged 25 schools for delivery, though the delivery charges had already been included in the contract from Taylor Publishing. Schissler said Wenzl cheated the U.S. Naval Academy out of $30,000 using this method.

Schissler said Taylor Publishing, rather than the schools, was the primary victim of the case.

“Since the schools probably paid what they would have paid had Wenzl billed properly, the losses from Wenzl’s primary scheme were Taylor’s losses,” he said.

The judge was lenient in sentencing due to Wenzl’s lack of criminal background and the amount of money involved, Schissler said.

University spokesperson Tracy Schario said, “GW is pleased to learn that the case has been resolved.”

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