Wall guilty in payroll scheme

  • Ryan Wall, left, arrives with Assistant Federal Public Defender David McColgin at U.S. District Court in Burlington, Vt., on Thursday, May 16, 2019. (Glenn Russell photograph) GLENN RUSSELL

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 12/19/2019 10:05:56 PM
Modified: 12/19/2019 10:10:51 PM

RUTLAND — A former Quechee resident has admitted to embezzling $1.2 million from clients of a family-owned payroll services and tax firm in West Lebanon.

Several of the victims, who ran small businesses in the Upper Valley, plan to speak at his sentencing hearing in the spring, according to prosecutors.

During a hearing at the U.S. District Court in Rutland on Thursday, Ryan Wall, 41, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud for the offense, which prosecutors said occurred over a period of six years.

By agreeing to the plea deal, Wall is consenting to a $1.2 million money judgment against him. The wire fraud charge also carries a maximum of 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine. Chief Federal Judge Geoffrey W. Crawford set the sentencing for April 20.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Waples requested Thursday that the judge set aside two hours — rather than the normal one-hour slot — for Wall’s sentencing, saying there are about 35 to 40 victims, many of whom will want to address Wall and the court. Waples declined to comment following Thursday’s hearing in Rutland.

Dressed in a light blue shirt and slacks, Wall stood quietly with his hands folded, listening as Waples read off the claims against him.

Wall ran payroll services for Twin State Business Services from 2012 to 2018, handling payroll taxes for local businesses in the Upper Valley.

During that time, he pocketed money from his clients that was supposed to go to the Internal Revenue Service or state tax departments, prosecutors said. Wall put the money in an escrow account, which he then used to write himself checks and send “hundreds of thousands” of dollars’ worth of wire transfers to third parties, Waples said in court Thursday.

TSBS was started by Wall’s former in-laws, John and Jacqueline Rezzonico in 1997. Their daughter Vanessa also worked there. (She and Wall are now divorced.)

The Rezzonicos started a payroll services division in 2012 and let Wall run the division until they fired him following the fraud allegations in late 2018. TSBS filed for bankruptcy protection in January.

Wall was indicted this spring on one charge of wire fraud and another, unrelated count of being an unlawful drug user after an FBI investigation. Earlier this month he signed a nine-page plea deal, which stipulated that the state would drop the drug charge in exchange for the guilty plea and money judgment.

Wall, who grew up in Barnard and graduated from Woodstock Union High School in 1995, received his bachelor’s degree at Johnson State College (now Northern Vermont University) in 2000.

Wall told a judge Thursday that he completed treatment for addiction in late January and that he’s been sober since September.

None of the business owners who were affected by the fraud or members of Wall’s family appeared in court Thursday.

One of the business owners, Todd Holmes, said in a phone interview after the hearing that he’s eager to confront Wall at his sentencing.

“I’d love to look at him and tell him how I feel. And tell the court, too,” Holmes said.

Holmes runs Valley Turf Services in White River Junction; he said he lost $40,000 after employing Wall to handle his payroll. Now he wonders whether he and other local businesses will ever see their money paid back.

“I’ve kind of resigned myself to: It is what it is. There’s no real recourse for us,” Holmes said, adding that he thinks it’s unlikely Wall will ever pay back the $1.2 million various businesses lost, especially from prison.

Holmes said he has tried to move on with his life, but the betrayal was difficult to take, especially since the two were friends before he hired Wall. They golfed together, visited each other’s homes and had dinner with each other’s families, Holmes said.

“Obviously you feel betrayed. … I was not expecting somebody that I saw three times a week to do that to me,” Holmes said.

He added that he was one of the first people to confront Wall about possible theft and drug use.

“Looking back there were plenty of signs,” Holmes said.

Anna Merriman can be reached at amerriman@vnews.com.

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