TYLER - U.S. Attorney John L. Ratcliffe announced last week that two North Texas businessmen have been sentenced to federal prison for their role in a corporate fraud scheme in the Eastern District of Texas.

Timothy Southwell, 42, of Denton County and Robert Beshires, 36, of Ellis County were each sentenced to 19 months in federal prison, fined $10,000, and ordered to pay $1.75 million in restitution to their victims.

According to information presented in court, Southwell and Beshirs worked for a corporation that refurbished cellular telephones and realized that they could divert cellular phones from their employer’s inventory.

The defendants then sold the diverted inventory to another company in New York, according to the information, which notes that in order to conceal the transactions, Southwell and Beshirs formed a shell corporation and opened a bank account in the shell corporation’s name. Through their scheme, Southwell and Beshirs received almost $2 million in 11 months, according to the information.

“This sentence shows that we are hitting criminals hard - whether they are in the boardroom or the street corner. Corporate executives who commit fraud will be aggressively pursued and will receive substantial and appropriate jail sentences,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Arnold Spencer said. “Southwell and Beshirs were high ranking executives with positions of trust in their company. Now they are paying the price for abusing the people that trusted them.”

Ratcliffe praised the work of the Internal Revenue Service’s criminal investigation division.

“This case required persistence and dedication from the IRS agents. I commend their diligent work in rooting out this fraud and bringing justice for the victims,” he said.

The case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service’s criminal investigation division and was prosecuted by Spencer as part of the Northeast Texas Securities Fraud Task Force. The task force, which is composed of state and federal regulatory and law enforcement agencies in Northern and Eastern Texas, identifies, investigates and prosecutes corporate and securities fraud.