DUPUIS PLEADS GUILTY FORMER GENERAL MANAGER OF HAAS AUTOMATION CONSPIRED IN FRAUD.
The former general manager of Haas Automation pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiring with the Oxnard company's owner to defraud the government of $20 million in taxes, authorities said.
Denis Arthur Dupuis, 51, of Newbury Park is scheduled to be sentenced next January by U.S. District Judge Christina A. Snyder to up to five years in prison.
Dupuis is expected to testify against Gene Francis Haas, the company's owner and a prominent philanthropist, who pleaded not guilty last summer, Assistant U.S. Attorney Sandra R. Brown said.
``The government considers Mr. Dupuis a valuable witness because he is an insider and he has firsthand knowledge of what occurred,'' Brown said.
Prosecutors say Haas, Dupuis and a former company salesman, Robert Gene Cable, orchestrated a bogus invoice scheme that enabled Haas Automation to deduct $37.5 million in false expenses during 2000 and 2001.
Haas devised the scheme after a federal judge ruled against him in a patent-infringement lawsuit that cost him $9 million, prosecutors allege.
Haas Automation maintained its owner's innocence Thursday.
``Those of us who know Gene and what kind of man he is remain confident that when these matters are finally cleared up, his innocence will be proven,'' company spokesman Peter Zierhut said.
``It is important to know that when the accounting irregularity surrounding this case was brought to the attention of Mr. Haas in 2003, Gene personally paid the tax that is the subject of the allegations, including interest. That fact speaks greatly of Mr. Haas' character.''
Haas, 54, of Camarillo, grew up in the San Fernando Valley. After graduating from California State University, Northridge, he founded Haas Automation in 1983 in Sun Valley.
It grew from a mom-and-pop manufacturer of rotary tables -- which are inserted into larger machines to hold metal parts to be perforated, sliced and drilled -- to a 1,000-employee company with revenues that topped $500 million last year.
A philanthropist, he has donated to CSUN's engineering college, home of the Gene Haas Machine Design and Manufacturing Lab; to numerous junior colleges, including Pierce and Valley; and to numerous charities.
Since 2002, Haas also has donated more than $22 million to the Gene Haas Foundation, which has made more than $5 million in community grants, Zierhut said.
Days before Haas was arrested June 19, the United Way of Ventura County honored Haas Automation with its Roy Pinkerton Award for donating more than $260,000 -- half from the employees and half from their boss, Haas.
He and Cable, 73, of La Crescenta are set for trial Sept. 18.