ALEXANDRIA, Va. (ABC7) — Brian Carpenter was looking at 20 years behind bars for his involvement in a scheme with two Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority employees, accused of defrauding Metro out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The Department of Justice pegged Carpenter as the mastermind behind the scheme that eventually defrauded the transit agency out of over $300,000.
Carpenter, however, says he was the one approached by the two Metro employees about a 'business opportunity' and says prosecutors unfairly targeted him because of his status as an ex-NFL player.
I was definitely targeted because of my status," Carpenter told ABC7's Elliot Henney. "Why am I the only one who's being indicted? What am I the only one who's paying back the money?
Carpenter, 60, of Centreville, Va., played for the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills before finishing his NFL career with the Washington Football Team in the 1980s. After leaving the NFL, Carpenter started a company called The Flinstone Group, based out of Leesburg, which sells and distributes janitorial products.
The Department of Justice said that Carpenter allegedly approached two Metro employees with WMATA-issued credit cards and worked up a scheme to charge those credit cards for supplies he never intended on delivering, even going so far as to call Carpenter the "ringleader" of the so-called group.
"That's just not true," Carpenter said. "Those guys were procurement people and they were saying that I was orchestrating this, but that's not true. I'm a businessman and they came to me with a business opportunity, and I should have said no."
The DOJ said that Carpenter would keep a large chunk of the money charged for his own personal benefit, and then gave his contacts at WMATA cash payments for permission to use the credit cards.
According to the DOJ, Carpenter used at least 10 different companies to process transactions from the credit cards to make it look like he ran a legitimate business and work-around WMATA's internal credit card controls. He then allegedly provided fraudulent invoices to his WMATA contacts.
Again, Carpenter refutes this, saying that the companies used to process transactions were legitimate companies that he did not own. He asserted that he has run a legitimate company for almost three decades, making him the longest-tenured self-employed former Washington Football Team player.
I've had my own business for 27 years," Carpenter said. "I would have been bounced out a long time ago if I was a fraud.
One of the alleged co-conspirators in the scheme was an assistant superintendent at Metro named Kirby Smith, who was sentenced in September to 14 days of federal incarceration, plus two years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay restitution to the agency in the amount of $174,054, according to WMATA.
To Carpenter and his lawyers, that sentencing says a lot about who the real mastermind was behind the scheme.
Carpenter, who was looking at decades behind bars, wound up only getting six months of home confinement, 50 hours of community service, and the ability to continue operating his janitorial company. Smith received a much heftier sentence.
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"It was our position that Mr. Smith approached Mr. Carpenter about getting involved with this delayed delivery process," said Carpenter's attorney Robert Jenkins. "He was the employee. We certainly believe that Mr. Smith was more culpable. The fact that Mr. Smith received actual jail time reflects that Mr. Carpenter is not the so-called ringleader."
Carpenter says he feels "blessed" and "thankful" that the judge was able to see his side of things and was able to walk out of court without too harsh of a sentence. He credits his attorneys Robert Jenkins and Pleasant Brodnax as the best in the business.
"One bad choice can put you in this position," Carpenter said. "I'm truly grateful that God stepped up and brought these people into my life to help get my truth."
Carpenter says he is looking forward to getting back to work and is thankful he can continue to run his company.
Additionally, Carpenter says he's looking forward to getting a chance to speak to young people during his 50 hours of community service. He hopes to explain the importance of listening to one's gut instinct, and knowing when to say no to others when proposed with something that sounds too good to be true.
I made a bad choice, I made a bad decision," Carpenter said. "Your narrative can change so quickly and you can't say a thing about it.
Carpenter hopes he can get his message to young people to help them understand one's journey and how one bad decision can affect the rest of your life.
'It's just not worth it," he said.