Payless ShoeSource Architect ‘Drafts’ the Path to His Own Prison Sentence

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Defrauding Payless ShoeSource

Manuel Francisco Ruiz-Lacayo, 38, of Lawrence, Kansas, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud. He was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison. Additionally, he was ordered to pay more than $425,000 in restitution for defrauding the company, as stated by U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister. In his plea, Ruiz-Lacayo admitted the crime occurred while he worked for Payless ShoeSource as a project manager for store planning.

Fictitious Invoices

While working as project manager at Payless, Ruiz-Lacayo focused on numerous facets of store planning. Some of his work included designing exteriors and interior floor plans for new stores in Central and South America.

As part of the planning process, Ruiz-Lacayo was responsible for regularly coordinating the numerous complex parts of the project. In doing so, he coordinated with several different well-known contractors in Latin America. For example, Ruiz-Lacayo communicated with contractors Ordonez Architecture and Construction in Bogota, Colombia, as well as Christian Heins Finkenstaedt in Barranquilla, Colombia, for the various projects.

Things became complicated when Ruiz-Lacayo decided to work outside the parameters of his employment contract with Payless. Without the knowledge of his employer, Ruiz-Lacayo told the contractors that 3D renderings of storefronts were required for all projects. Furthermore, Ruiz-Lacayo told the contractors to use a firm he said was located in Costa Rica.

However, the firm indicated by Ruiz-Lacayo was a sham firm, and one that corresponded with his mother’s address. No renderings were ever produced. Finally, Ruiz-Lacayo submitted invoices from the fictitious firm to Payless for payment.