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Cincinnati business owner admits to mail fraud and embezzlement

Ron Estes owned R & R Steel
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Posted at 5:59 PM, Dec 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-17 19:37:19-05

Ron Estes, the longtime owner of R & R Steel in Cincinnati, has agreed to plead guilty to federal mail fraud and embezzlement charges.

The WCPO I-Team first exposed his crimes in 2017.

In the plea agreement, Estes admits he embezzled money from the 401(k) plan of his workers and that he purchased and submitted false OSHA certifications for workers who had not received safety training.

Court records in the case show the allegations occurred from 2015 to 2017.

According to the plea agreement signed by Estes Dec. 11, Estes received about $490,000 as a result of his offenses.

Estes received $450,000 in work on the 8th and Sycamore development in downtown Cincinnati after he provided false OSHA records to qualify for the work. He also stole $40,000 in retirement savings from his workers.

"This case should be a model for law enforcement and general contractors," said attorney Brennan Grayson.

Grayson, the director of the Cincinnati Interfaith Workers Center in Cincinnati, represented former R & R employees, including men who spoke little English and appeared to be targeted by Estes.

"Whistleblowers in worker cases are really important to make sure everyone is treated with dignity on the job," Grayson told WCPO on Tuesday.

Edward Gonzalez, a former R & R employee, told the I-Team in 2017 that Estes owed him thousands of dollars for work.

"I was angry at the moment, but at the end justice will be served," said Gonzalez.

The plea agreement calls for Estes to pay $25,000 as a judgment. He also agreed to pay an undetermined amount of restitution to his victims.

A plea hearing has not been scheduled.