Former Federal Prison Official and Factory manager at USP-Marion Sentenced to Prison

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Court, Judge Gavel, Big Stock Photos

BENTON, ILL – Shawn E. Whitecotton, 50, of Herrin, Illinois, was sentenced to 16 months
confinement today, consisting of 8 months in federal prison and 8 months of home confinement after
his release. At his sentencing, United States District Court Judge Staci M. Yandle agreed with
federal  prosecutors  that  Whitecotton  knowingly  obtained  thousands  of  dollars  by  abusing
his management position at the federal penitentiary at Marion, Illinois (USP-Marion), lied about
it, and then obstructed justice while trying to cover up his scheme.

“It is important for the community to have faith in our institutions, including our federal
prisons,”  U.S.  Attorney  Steven  D.  Weinhoeft  said.  “We  will  always  hold  public  officials
accountable if they abuse positions of public trust for their own financial benefit.”

“Whitecotton  failed  to  inform  the  government  that,  while  he  was  a  UNICOR  factory
manager, he was also being paid directly by a contractor he oversaw; and he doubled down when he
thought he’d get caught. Today’s sentencing shows that there is no place for lying and deceit among
federal employees,” said William J. Hannah, Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Justice
Office of the Inspector General Chicago Field Office.

Whitecotton was a career federal corrections officer and served as the factory manager of the
UNICOR  manufacturing  facility  operating  within  USP-Marion. ¹  In  2014,  USP-Marion’s UNICOR
facility contracted with a private company, PGB Hanger, Inc. (“PGB”), to manufacture wire  clothing
hangers.  As  factory  manager,  Whitecotton  was  directly  responsible  for  the  PGB contract.
Shortly after the work began, Whitecotton approached PGB’s owner and offered to work for PGB as a
salesperson – in direct violation of government ethics rules. PGB agreed and they signed  a
written  contract  setting  Whitecotton’s  compensation  at  $1,500.00  a  month,  plus  a
commission  for  each  hanger  sold  on  new  accounts  and  a  monthly  phone  allowance.  He
then accepted over $20,000.00 in payments from PGB during the following year.


¹  UNICOR is a wholly-owned government corporation administered by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) that
operates manufacturing facilities in certain BOP facilities. The goal is to prepare federal inmates
for successful reentry into society by providing them with job training and work skills. UNICOR
hires BOP inmates to work in its factories,
at different locations. In some circumstances, UNICOR contracts with private vide product
manufacturing services.

In 2015, while Whitecotton was continuing to work for PGB as a salesperson, he became aware  that
federal  investigators  were  interviewing  staff  and  inmates  working  in  his  factory. Worried
that his prohibited job with PGB might be exposed, Whitecotton concocted a cover-up. He amended
documents to make it appear that his son had been working for PGB, as opposed to Whitecotton. He
also instructed PGB’s owner not to cooperate with investigators if anyone asked for  an  interview.
Whitecotton  further  told  PGB’s  owner  that  if  he  did  agree  to  speak  to investigators,
the owner should say that Whitecotton’s son, not Whitecotton, had been working with PGB as a
salesperson and receiving payments for the past year.
Whitecotton further attempted to conceal his prohibited job with PGB by making false statements on
certified government forms. As a supervisory employee in the executive branch of the United States,
Whitecotton was required to annually report his financial interests, any outside employment
activities, and any positions held outside his role at the prison. The purpose of this requirement
was to uncover any possible conflicts of interest a supervisory employee may have in the
performance of his or her duties. The forms specifically required Whitecotton to disclose any
sources of income over $200. At the time, Whitecotton had received over $20,000 in payments from
PGB, but he knowingly failed to disclose that information, to prevent federal investigators from
discovering the truth.

In  December  2020,  Whitecotton  pled  guilty  to  two  counts  of  making  materially  false
statements related to those government forms.

Along with 8 months in prison and 8 months of home confinement, Judge Yandle ordered Whitecotton to
pay restitution in the amount of $23,475.25 – the total amount he earned from PGB. As part of his
sentence, Whitecotton was also ordered to serve 10 months on supervised release after his home
confinement ends.

This case was investigated by the FBI and Department of Justice Office of the Inspector
General. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Luke J. Weissler.

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