Convicted Fraudster Ryan Homa visits Fraud Busting. He gets pretty raw as he tells us exactly how he stole $1.2 M, why he did it, the devastating effects of how it weighed on him, how it didn’t even solve the problem he really had and what he learned about himself. He doesn’t hold anything back. You’ll learn a lot from this one. Enjoy.
Here’s the Transcript:
Traci Brown: Ryan, thank you so much for coming on Fraud Busting. It’s really an honor to have you here.
Ryan Homa: Thank you. Glad to be here.
Traci Brown: I don’t think any intro I could do would do you justice, so why don’t you let us know just like a little bit about who you are and then we will get into why you’re here.
Ryan Homa: Okay. I’m 47 years old. I live in Green Bay, Wisconsin. I have two beautiful children, a daughter and a son. I am just back to the point where I feel like I am fresh out of college again. I am just trying to live life to the fullest and be happy every day. The reason I’m here today is because from the years of 2007 through 2011, I was part of the accounting department for a local manufacturing company, and in that time I misappropriated funds, which is the polite lawyer way of saying that I stole over $1.2 million. I did it quite simply, for the most part, because I could. I was feeling at the time a lot of stress, a lot of pressure due to some immaturity, and just the weight of the world was on my shoulders, and I used that as an excuse to justify some very terrible ideas and essentially I took all these factors which were half-true, half-false, magnified them in my own head, and I developed a great sense of self-hate and I developed a great sense of pity that all my friends and family, that I wasn’t worthy of them, that I needed to make amends with them because of how I felt about myself, and I used the ability I had at work to take money from them to try and support a very materialistic lifestyle for both my friends and family.
Traci Brown: Wow. Okay, okay. There is a lot there. We are going to get into some of this.
Ryan Homa: Alright.
Traci Brown: So, yea, so much was there. Okay. In 2007, you got a job. You got a job at a manufacturing place. Were you the lead accountant, chief accountant, or like CFO? What was the . . .
Ryan Homa: My official title was accountant, but I was the only accountant. I mean, I probably should have had the title of CFO. I oversaw one person in payroll, two people in accounts receivable, and three people in accounts payable, but one of the owner’s wives was also the office manager, so even though I should have been overseeing those departments, and on the books I oversaw them, she ran the show with regard to those three departments. Where I was the main person was, I was the number one liaison between the company and the outside CPA firm and the liaison with the bank.
Traci Brown: Oh, okay.
Ryan Homa: I set up all of our funding, lease, and loan programs, funding for vehicles, machinery, things like that. On top of that, we had an on-demand checkbook that I was the sole – I shouldn’t say the sole, the two owners were also signers – but I was the sole signer of the on-demand checkbook along with the sole reconciler and the sole overseer of said checkbook.
Traci Brown: Wow. Okay. So you had a lot of flexibility with what you did. That’s what I’m getting out of that.
Ryan Homa: Correct.
Traci Brown: Yea. Okay. What happened? Walk us through. Like you show up and you get this job that’s pretty good and how does it unfold from there? Because at a certain point, I guess you would have started to see loopholes and things in the process that . . . how does all this manifest? Let’s talk about that.
Ryan Homa: When I showed up, they were a very, and they still are, a very large important manufacturer business in the Green Bay area. I would say that when I was there they were hovering right around 300 employees, and in the three years I was there went from $48 to $50 million a year in gross sales to $60 million. I can only assume now, 10 years later, they’re probably well over $100 million a year in sales. At the same time, they wanted to run it like mom and pop’s grocery store. They wanted to use the banks and the leasing options, but they didn’t want to turn over any control. I get that most owners don’t.
Traci Brown: Okay, wait. Now, what does that mean? They didn’t want to turn over control. You said they wanted to use the banks. I get that. Then how would that have them turn over control, or can you?
Ryan Homa: When you’re a bank and you are going to give a company that size a $10 to $14 million line of credit, there are a lot of necessary documents, there are a lot of quarterly statements, monthly statements, year-end statements, that the bank needs to make sure that their money is protected from a standpoint of: Hey, they borrowed $14 million. Can they pay it back? My owners wanted to be able to use that money, but also not have anyone scrutinize what purchases they were making.
Traci Brown: Ah, got it. Got it.
Ryan Homa: They didn’t want anyone to scrutinize. Hey, we’re in a recession but we are going to hire 50 new people. What do you mean your revenue is going down 5% and you are going to hire 15 people? They wanted to be able to run the business how they saw fit without any outside – I’ll say negative influences because nobody cares about positive influences.
Traci Brown: Right.
Ryan Homa: When I got there, there was a lot of hey, this is how we do things here. What the bank doesn’t know won’t hurt them.
Traci Brown: Oh. Okay. Okay.
Ryan Homa: We have an outside CPA firm that used to do the month-end close, but we’re hiring you specifically so you can do the month-end close and as long as they say the balance sheet looks good, that’s all they need to be concerned with.
Traci Brown: Oh, so they everything wasn’t above board maybe to start with? Would that be fair?
Ryan Homa: Yea. But at the same time, I don’t want it to sound like these guys are just bad guys. Tax law, by the nature of it, there are gray areas. Any business owner wants those gray areas to get bigger, and the IRS wants those gray areas to get smaller.
Traci Brown: Right.
Ryan Homa: So I mean, there was never any initially like you would hear like slush funds or under the table payments or anything like that. But there were things, you know, with regard to like who got care allowances. Would a sales force get a car allowance? Of course, they would. Oh, but we’re going to give these other individuals car allowances. It’s like, well, you’ve still got to have some justification there. I mean, we had 300 employees, and we probably had 90 company cell phones. I was the accountant. They gave me a cell phone. Why do I need a company cell phone? Other than the fact that if you want to call me at midnight on a Saturday, I guess you can.
Traci Brown: Right, right.
Ryan Homa: There were just a lot of things like that. They weren’t illegal. They weren’t 100% by the book, but they wanted to be able to kind of smudge those lines.
Traci Brown: Got it. Okay. You are working there for a while. Like how does this thing go? What starts to develop that get you like, hmm, I have an opportunity here. How does that all unfold?
Ryan Homa: Within six weeks of being there, the job wasn’t for me. I should have left. I should have left, but I had outside influences that had told me what a wonderful company this was, and man, if you ever get into this company, like don’t screw it up. When I got there where I sat at maturity, I was the accountant, so I mean, in the hierarchy of the company, there were legitimately maybe four people higher than me, the general manager, the assistant general manager, the owners, things like that. I was seeing things behind closed doors, like behind the curtain with The Wizard of Oz.
Traci Brown: Yea, yea.
Ryan Homa: That it was just like, oh man, is this really what goes on here? Is this really how big business works? I’ll admit that I wasn’t mature enough to take in information and just process it. I had outside influences telling me that this is a great business. I had first-hand knowledge that I am really not on board with everything that’s going on here. There was a personality conflict between me and the general manager from a standpoint of he was put in place shortly after I was hired. He and I had a few run-ins, and it was the classic, I didn’t hire you, so I don’t know what you’re all about. My throwback was, well, one of the owners hired me so if you’ve got any problems, man up and go talk to him.
Traci Brown: Uh-huh. Got it.
Ryan Homa: Again, it was just one of those things where, you know, he was a guy that had been in the company 20 to 25 years and God bless him, had risen through the ranks. Here I was this 33-year-old, you know, smart aleck that all of a sudden is like in the office next to him. I can see how my personality can rub people the wrong way. Again, that was part of my own maturity there. Where I took the feelings he had for me and I had for me on a personal level, versus just being hey, you don’t have to get along with everyone you work with.
Traci Brown: Right.
Ryan Homa: You can have your space. I can have my space kind of thing. I was doing these things at the behest of the owners, and I was, right or wrong, I was a really good accountant, but I was just dreading going there every day, every day, every day, and I had built up into my mind that if these guys ever get caught for these things that they’re doing, I’m the accountant. I’m going like . . .
Traci Brown: You’re going down with them. Yea.
Ryan Homa: Yea.
Traci Brown: Okay.
Ryan Homa: It kind of got to the point where I realized how miserable I was and I realized in my own mind how miserable I was making everyone around me. It’s like, I’m not going to get any better so I’ve got to somehow make these people happy and happy with me. I saw the opportunity. It was a conscious decision that, you know, I’m going to do this. You know, pardon my French, but f—them. If they want to me do this stuff, I’m going to do some stuff to benefit myself and especially benefit my family and my friends because they’re putting up with me. They deserve it.
Traci Brown: Wow. Okay. I think what you really touched on is super – Now, did you know that at the time or was it just kind of something that unraveled, and you unpacked that later? Because that’s like some pretty deep thought. How does that add up?
Ryan Homa: At the time it was just, I feel terrible and I need to make these people happy, the owners, my own friends and family. Years later, with a little bit of therapy and a little bit of self-reflection and a little bit of time in the federal system that you kind of gain the insight. The best way to describe it is no one realize they’re an alcoholic before they stop drinking.
Traci Brown: Sure. Right. Okay. Okay.
Ryan Homa: So I didn’t realize I had a problem until everyone knew I had a problem.
Traci Brown: Got it. Okay. So you misappropriated funds. Now what does that really amount to in day-to-day nuts and bolts? Like did you just set up a fake vendor account and do it that way or what? What was it?
Ryan Homa: We had a leasing agency that we used out of California. I was the only one that ever met or talked to them. I had set up an account at a bank locally and I had started a company with a name that was really close to their name.
Traci Brown: Ohhh! Okay.
Ryan Homa: Since I was in control of this checkbook, I would cut checks to my company that looked reasonably close to that company, and then I would deposit them. The best way to describe it is . . . Again, I was in 100% control of this one checkbook, even though the general manager was supposed to look at it and reconcile it, I want this to come out the right way, people that get high positions in certain types of companies are really good in that industry. The general manager we had grew up in the manufacturing business. He could tell people and direct people on how to manufacture things. I doubt he had any accounting background.
Traci Brown: Oh, interesting.
Ryan Homa: And again, nothing against that, because why would you? The percentage of that is very slim. So, you have someone that does not have an accounting background, does not have any accounting experience, being the person that I’m supposed to show my records to. I mean . . .
Traci Brown: Yea. You can do anything, and he’s not going to know.
Ryan Homa: Right. That was where part of the germ of the idea was. Like, man, I could get away with this because who is there to watch? The other flip side of it is that as much as the bank wants everything to be proper, the banks wants the company’s business. The banks wants to make interest on that money.
Traci Brown: Oh yea, yea. You bet.
Ryan Homa: There are a million CPA firms out there. The CPA wants to make sure that they’re right with the IRS, and that the company is right with the IRS. But at the end of the day, the customer is just that, a customer of the CPA firm. If you’re going to start telling me I can and can’t do some things, well maybe I need to find a CPA firm that’s going to let me do the things I want to do.
Traci Brown: Um-hum.
Ryan Homa: So when it came time for like quarterlies and yearly reviewed financials and that, I’d get an email with a list. Hey, we’re going to be out there a week from Tuesday for three days, and here is exactly what we want to see. So, I had a head start on it. Oh, they’re going to look at payables. I better make sure that if they look in the right spots, I’ve got my ducks in a row. There was a little bit of false hope that man, no one’s ever going to find this. But then what creeps in after you start doing something 126 times over three years is I need to bat a thousand. I need to be right every day.
Traci Brown: Yea.
Ryan Homa: I need to be right every minute. They need to find the needle in the haystack once. If they find it once, it doesn’t take a genius to find it all. That’s what started to really get to me from a depression standpoint and a remorse standpoint was that I could win the lottery and give them all their money back, and it’s not going to make a difference because one day I am going to get caught. One day I am going to get found out because in my mind the odds were against me. Eventually it’s just going to happen.
Traci Brown: That’s a lot of pressure. I want to get back to that in just a minute. I’m really curious about how you button up things up on your end. Like, did you actually set up a corporation or did it go to a personal account? You really were two feet in.
Ryan Homa: Oh yea. I can’t tell anyone this was an accident. I mean this was 100% pre-thought, pre-planned, orchestrated. Yea. It was.
Traci Brown: Now, I’m curious because I talk to a lot of people who do some things that maybe aren’t great, kind of like what you did, but they do it in a very similar way. Did you do any research on how to do this ahead of time or was it something you just kind of cooked up and it seemed natural?
Ryan Homa: To me it was just you’re an accountant with 14 years of experience. It’s just, this is how you do it. A, B, and C.
Traci Brown: That’s it. It just made sense.
Ryan Homa: It just . . . I had worked for everyone from the corporate office of US Bank in downtown Minneapolis. I had a friend who ran a bank. He was like the executive of a bank, and so I had a little bit of banking knowledge. I would hear his war stories when we were golfing about, oh my God, you’re not going to believe what this person tried or this person tried, or we had to fix this.
Traci Brown: Right.
Ryan Homa: It just kind of lined up. It’s like, man, like there are not a lot of people watching this.
Traci Brown: Huh. So you kind of knew the ins and outs of it just a little bit.
Ryan Homa: Yea. And I knew it just enough that it gave me a little level of – comfort is a terrible word – confidence.
Traci Brown: Right.
Ryan Homa: The truth of the matter is had I known how little . . . if I had known even more, I would have taken way more.
Traci Brown: Oh, really. Oh, wow.
Ryan Homa: It’s ridiculous how little the controls are in place at banks, that I learned later.
Traci Brown: What would you have done to get more? Can you reveal it? If you’re not comfortable, that’s okay. I’m just curious.
Ryan Homa: Multiple companies.
Traci Brown: Oh, really. Just scale.
Ryan Homa: Yea. Multiple amounts of values of check amounts.
Traci Brown: Now, how did you do that with the check amounts? Because one of the things they always say is – you know, we’ve both spoken for the ACFE with all the fraud examiners – is the check amounts. Were you doing even amounts or did you mix it up a little bit? How did all of that . . . what was your method?
Ryan Homa: I started off mixing it up, high, low, and kind of all over the board. I want to say like the last 60 to 70 checks I wrote for the same exact amount.
Traci Brown: Oh, really. You just gave up? You weren’t even trying?
Ryan Homa: Nope. Wasn’t trying anymore.
Traci Brown: Oh my gosh.
Ryan Homa: Letting in run.
Traci Brown: Wow. So, let’s get back to that whole idea, because you were doing this to fill a hole, like in your emotional health really.
Ryan Homa: Yes, 100%.
Traci Brown: And maybe you didn’t really know that was what was going on at the time, because you said you did some reflection on that, but what . . . did it work even for a little period of time? What was the . . . because obviously the threat and the fear creeps in, but at first, what was your feeling? Take us through that, how it developed. It was like four years. How did it unravel?
Ryan Homa: Yea. You can talk to multiple people that have been in my situation. It all starts the same. You know, if I can just pay off . . . it doesn’t matter what it is. If I could just pay off my car, if I can just pay off my college loans, if I can just get enough of the house paid down so we’re off of PMI. The rationalization is I made so much money legally that if I can just get a few of these bills taken care of, we’re going to be on easy street. And then it’s like, well, that was easy. Why can’t I have a new car and have that paid for?
Traci Brown: Right.
Ryan Homa: Why can’t we put an addition on the house? Why can’t we go on vacation? It gets to the point where you then all of a sudden one day realize like, I’m so deep in this, there is no point in stopping.
Traci Brown: Wow.
Ryan Homa: I’ve had guys ask me, when do you think you could have stopped and gotten away with it? I would say somewhere in that $800,000 range.
Traci Brown: Oh, really.
Ryan Homa: Given how far apart that was from the end, that I would have stopped and just let it run its course, muscled my way through a few more year-end financial reviews, and then possibly gotten the mental help I needed, I still . . . there still would have always been something in the back of my head like, man, you know, I would have still been sweating bullets for, let’s face it, seven years, because at seven years . . . someone could audit two years back and go, we don’t like this, let’s dig a little deeper. Again, that needle in the haystack. All of a sudden someone just says, man, look at this. You figure from an overall standpoint, you know, if you can make it through seven years, but I mean, imagine sitting there for seven years wondering if today’s the day.
Traci Brown: Yea. With ducks quacking.
Ryan Homa: Oh, I know. Everyone’s upstairs yelling at me.
Traci Brown: Oh, I know. It’s okay. I like it. Okay. So it starts out pretty good, and then you get to where you can’t stop.
Ryan Homa: Oh yea.
Traci Brown: So what have you bought at this point in an attempt to fill the hole internally? Was it just what you think, like boats and vacations, or was there something else?
Ryan Homa: No. That’s like . . . talking to some guys that I roomed with in Duluth, you know, they had a $125,000 Audis, and they had summer homes, and they had boats. Don’t get me wrong. We had lots of nice things. But my nice things, I had the same truck 40 guys at work had. I had Sea-Doos that 20 guys at work had. The best way to describe it is that if it was your birthday and I normally bought you a $30 gift, this year your gift was $85. If normally we went to the game and everyone took a turn and bought a round of beers, which at a football game is ridiculous.
Traci Brown: That’s a lot of money. Yea.
Ryan Homa: I would be the guy that, as you walked in, bought the first round, at halftime made sure I bought another round, and just made sure, hey, does anyone want one more? So there was nothing overly suspicious in my spending or my buying, but you know . . . Going to the store, hey, should we get some seafood? Yea, but let’s go get the fresh stuff. I mean there was just . . .
Traci Brown: Little upgrades.
Ryan Homa: Yea. Little upgrades, and it was always like, man, the furniture is really getting ratty. Well, let’s get some new furniture. Well, there’s going to be a sale in six weeks. Ah, let’s start looking now. It was just that kind of lifestyle. I mean, not to pat myself on the back, but when I got caught, I mean, five or six days, I had given back $150,000 or $160,000. I had it. I wasn’t just spending. I was ridiculously conservative with it. I had retirement accounts. I had college savings accounts.
Traci Brown: Oh wow.
Ryan Homa: Again, after selling all of our assets and selling our house and doing the whole nine yards, and again, I do not want this to sound like, what a great guy I am, but my victims, and I call them my victims, they received between $400,000 and $450,000 in cash. They had their insurance. I owe my victims, I think, $300,000 out of $1.2 million. Again, I don’t want this to make like, oh, they got away with something, or oh my God, I’m such a great guy. It’s just the facts that most people in my situation, when they get caught, they’ve got $300 to their name because they are spending wildly. I wasn’t a gambler. I wasn’t a drug user. I didn’t participate with paid help, so to speak. I was just trying to live a better life.
Traci Brown: Wow. Okay.
Ryan Homa: I wasn’t living the better life.
Traci Brown: No. It wasn’t working. I mean, you must have been, I mean, I don’t even want to say a downward spiral, but like straight down.
Ryan Homa: Oh yea.
Traci Brown: Because more wasn’t better.
Ryan Homa: Nope. Not at all.
Traci Brown: Wow. Okay.
Ryan Homa: Not at all.
Traci Brown: So then, you’re writing yourself these checks. You wrote – what did you say? 100 some checks?
Ryan Homa: Like, 126 I think.
Traci Brown: So, 126 checks. Then, how did it come crashing down? What happened?
Ryan Homa: I couldn’t keep it together mentally anymore. Everyone was worried about me. I had actually had two separate emotional collapses at work. One was one of the owners happened to walk into my office and I was literally sitting at my desk sobbing uncontrollably. Like the pressure was just getting so much and they were overall good guys, and they were worried not only about my health, but they were also worried about, like hey, this is a guy that knows a lot about us and is our liaison with the bank, like we have got to make sure this guy is sane.
Traci Brown: Oh. Oh yea.
Ryan Homa: He has a lot of responsibility. So, they put me into some employer-paid therapy.
Traci Brown: Okay.
Ryan Homa: Which only increased my issues because you’re supposed to be able to tell a therapist anything.
Traci Brown: Right.
Ryan Homa: I can’t tell them the real reason I’m there.
Traci Brown: Oh man.
Ryan Homa: So now I’m making up even more lies to cover the lies I’ve already started, and my owners were getting extremely nervous because they’re like, what’s this guy going to do? In hindsight, they were plotting to get rid of me.
Traci Brown: Oh.
Ryan Homa: Plotting is a bad term.
Traci Brown: Planning.
Ryan Homa: Yea, planning. While I was at one of these meetings, I had a personal laptop that was at work that they actually had . . . they downloaded, they downloaded the information off of it.
Traci Brown: Off your personal laptop?
Ryan Homa: Yep. And I think the reason they did it was not because of anything overly evil or anything like that, but I think their worry was man, if we cut this guy loose, does he have any of our business information on that computer?
Traci Brown: Oh. Did you know it?
Ryan Homa: Oh God no.
Traci Brown: They just kind of picked up off your desk, and then put it back?
Ryan Homa: Yep. While I was at one of these meetings. So then, we’re having a meeting one day, and I just feel like everyone in the room is trying to pick a fight with me. The owners, the general manager, and everyone is just like, they’ve been wonderful up until this point, and now all of a sudden everyone is yelling at me and it’s going weird. I finally looked at one of the owners and I said, are you trying to get me to quit? He goes, what do you mean? I said, everyone’s like ganging up on me here. I said, do you want me to quit? He goes, I don’t want you here anymore. I just want you to go and get out of here. I went, okay. I literally grabbed my stuff, and I walked out of the building. Right then and there I had a 60-day clock in my head. I said, if no one contacts me in 60 days, either they found out and don’t care, which obviously is not the case, they didn’t look, they don’t care, they’re just moving on. I was served papers I believe 24 days later.
Traci Brown: Oh boy, so they got in and they figured it all out?
Ryan Homa: Yea. Like I said, I only have one mean thought in my head from the whole situation. I always wanted to be a fly on the wall when the IT guy came to them and said, we found this, do you want to look at it? And again, not to cause them any more pain, but I just always wanted to know like, what was that scene like? Was it just somber or desks thrown? Like how bad was it?
Traci Brown: So you never heard?
Ryan Homa: No. No. I was served papers, and then that started . . . it didn’t start the healing process then, but it leveled me out for the first time in three years.
Traci Brown: Oh really?
Ryan Homa: Because I knew right then and there it couldn’t get any worse. Like this is as bad as it’s ever going to get. Now we’ve got to figure out how we get to the finish line. That was always my phrase, to all the people I dealt with from lawyers and FBI and the IRS, was how do we get to the finish line? Yea. It was just like that. That was gut wrenching. That was soul searching. But if that would not have happened, I honestly would not be here today because it was getting to the point that there were thoughts and plans starting to be made.
Traci Brown: Got it. Oh my gosh. That’s a dark place to be, like for sure. Your wife, how did she take all this?
Ryan Homa: Not well..
Traci Brown: I didn’t think so.
Ryan Homa: She was 100% oblivious to what was happening, 100% oblivious to what was going on. She immediately realized 90% of probably had told her over the previous few years was complete lies.
Traci Brown: Now, what did you tell her? What were you telling her?
Ryan Homa: I made a good living. We always had extra money to do things. Most of the time the people that I was dealing with gave me the reason why I had money. Of all things, when I was younger, I was a nationally ranked racquetball player, and I played a professional tour. When everyone sees professional athlete, they are like, oh, we know you didn’t make NBA or NFL money, but you must have done alright.
Traci Brown: Yea, well. I’ll tell you, I was a professional athlete as well. There’s no better way to go broke sometimes. (Laughing).
Ryan Homa: Exactly. Exactly. But people thought I made money. Taking a tragedy and turning it into a reality, my mother passed away in 2004. My mother was a classic northeast Wisconsin person that got a job at one of the paper mills right out of high school, worked there for 30 years. All of those people retire with a boatload of money in their savings, rightfully so.
Traci Brown: Yea, in coffee cans under the mattress and the whole bit. Yea, yea.
Ryan Homa: Everyone just assumed that I got a boatload of that. I didn’t. My stepdad did. But I got a little bit, and sadly, the story always was to my wife was, hey, can we afford this? Hey, the market’s been doing really good. My mom’s name was Terry. I’ll get a little bit of Terry’s money. It’ll be fine.
Traci Brown: Oh, wow. Okay. So it was always, it’ll be fine.
Ryan Homa: Yea. There was always a plausible explanation for what was going on.
Traci Brown: Wow. So then . . .
Ryan Homa: And it wasn’t like we were showing like hey, we are going to buy a BMW on Saturday.
Traci Brown: Right, right.
Ryan Homa: It was, hey, we’re having a kid, maybe we should get an SUV.
Traci Brown: Right. Okay. There’s a knock at the door. Here come the papers. You’re there. Is your wife there? How does all that go down?
Ryan Homa: They actually served the papers to her. I got home after.
Traci Brown: Oh my goodness.
Ryan Homa: Yes.
Traci Brown: So, how did that go?
Ryan Homa: She had read it. I got home and she said, you need to read this. I already knew what it was. I read it. Based on the detail that was there, I was like, there’s no way they pulled this together on their own in three weeks. At first, I was like, how did they get my information? It was like, that doesn’t matter right now. We’ll worry about that later.
Traci Brown: Right.
Ryan Homa: She just asked me if what the documents said were true, and I said, you know, there is a little liberty here and there, but I said, these are about 95% to 96% true.
Traci Brown: Oh.
Ryan Homa: And that was a really long night.
Traci Brown: Yea. I bet so. Then you end up in court, I guess? Did you have a public defender? Did you have your own lawyer? Did you just say, I’m going to handle this myself?
Ryan Homa: No. If there’s one thing I learned is that they don’t care where the money comes from. If you have money, they are going to make you spend it for your own defense. I had to give a financial disclosure within like a week, and they earmarked a fair amount of money that my victims should have gotten back. They said, this is for your lawyers.
Traci Brown: So the government took some for legal fees?
Ryan Homa: Oh, no, no. I hired my lawyers.
Traci Brown: You had your own lawyer.
Ryan Homa: But they took the money and put it in a trust and said, here’s how much money we’re going to give you for a legal defense.
Traci Brown: Oh really. Okay.
Ryan Homa: Yes.
Traci Brown: So they gave you a little bit of a bone there.
Ryan Homa: They gave the lawyers a little bit of bone because the stuff was so cut and dry that they don’t need to file anything and you don’t need a lawyer to protect your rights.
Traci Brown: Okay, okay. So then, you went to court. Did you just go in and say, guilty?
Ryan Homa: Yep.
Traci Brown: A little short?
Ryan Homa: I met with the investigator and the prosecuting attorney for the FBI in the Northeast District. I went there with my lawyer, and I said, guys, literally I walked in, I introduced myself, we shook hands. I said, sad to say, it’s not great to meet you, but here I am. How do I get to the finish line? That was the first time I used that. The guys said, we’re going to sit down, we’re going to ask you some questions, and we want the answers to them. Okay. Let’s go. They are like, at any time if you want to step out and talk to your lawyer, feel free. I said, no, that won’t be necessary. I said, let’s do this. He was there with me the whole time, and we just went from A, B, C, and D and I want to say I was there, it wasn’t very long, maybe an hour, an hour and a half.
Traci Brown: Oh, that’s it.
Ryan Homa: And it was kind of the question of, we may want to talk to you again. I said, I need a half hour notice to get here. I’m not saying they were surprised at how forthcoming I was, but at the same time, that’s not exactly what they’re used to.
Traci Brown: Right.
Ryan Homa: My guy, his name was Vince, knew them well. He was just like, you’re going to just have to take my oath as a lawyer, a defender of law, that this guy’s going to help you in any way and there won’t be any shenanigans. There wasn’t.
Traci Brown: Wow. So then, how long did they give you before you had to show up in jail?
Ryan Homa: Too long. At the end, I was begging to go.
Traci Brown: Really? Just to get it over?
Ryan Homa: Yep. Sadly, it takes a long time in our judicial processes to get anything moving. It took a while for the criminal stuff to even get going. I don’t think I even went to a criminal court until January or February the following year. I reported in November.
Traci Brown: Oh wow. Okay. It was a long time.
Ryan Homa: In my first meeting with the judge, my lawyer stood up and said – I don’t remember exactly how it went, but it was like, it was the preliminary hearing, and we were like, no, Ryan is ready to move to the next phase. He is here to plead guilty. Like, we’re ready to go to sentencing, Your Honor. That’s literally what it was. It still took too long.
Traci Brown: Wow, because you had to sit and stew. I mean, that’s crazy. Did it give you any time to get, I don’t know, affairs in order or anything like that?
Ryan Homa: Oh yea. Again, I wasn’t a threat to myself. I wasn’t a threat to society. They kind of . . . the best way to describe it, they kind of give you that little, like, hey, we can come get you tomorrow if we want to.
Traci Brown: Yea, yea, yea.
Ryan Homa: So you better not do anything, you better not go anywhere, and you better get yourself taken care of because when we come and get you, we’re coming. I mean, I didn’t have much to get taken care of. I mean, I had a bag of clothes and a couple pairs of shoes. That was about it. But it got to the point where it was like, I was crying to my lawyer, like we’ve got to speed this up, like I’m ready to go and we need to. Because no matter when you start, that amount of time is going to be there.
Traci Brown: Right, right. Yea. For sure. Wow.
Ryan Homa: It was weird.
Traci Brown: So then once you got there, once you got to prison, I guess, what goes on? You’ve definitely done some soul searching, but what else did you have the opportunity to do? Like, did it change you? Tell us about that.
Ryan Homa: It honestly brought me back to the person I used to be. I’m a bit of a talker. I’m an outgoing guy. I wear my emotions on my sleeve. My wife knows this, wholeheartedly, that if I’m quiet, something’s wrong.
Traci Brown: Okay.
Ryan Homa: It got me. And you go there very hesitant, because you hear all the horror stories, and you’ve seen all the movies. You show up, and it’s just a bunch of dudes hanging out.
Traci Brown: That’s it?
Ryan Homa: Yep. It’s like you find your niche of, alright, I’m going to hang out with these guys. I’m going to avoid those guys. I’m going to do everything I can to try to make the hours go faster. Most of all, I’m going to try not to get comfortable. I don’t want to be comfortable here.
Traci Brown: Oh, okay.
Ryan Homa: Because there are guys that get comfortable, and it’s like, hey, when you going? I don’t know. Like really? Yea, I don’t know when I go home. I’m good. Like, that was my fear. I do not want to get comfortable. I didn’t want to feel that I was in danger. I didn’t want to feel that the world was closing in around me, but like I did not want to feel comfortable. I mean, for two years, the place I went to, you had to have a job onsite. I shoveled snow. I cut grass. I did lots of stuff I don’t normally do, like played basketball. I started walking and running around the track. It was just anything you can do to make that hour go faster.
Traci Brown: Wow. All the depression, self-hatred, that kind of stuff, did that just magically go away? Or was there something that you consciously did to get yourself back on target?
Ryan Homa: I had, again, once everything was found out, it wasn’t the therapist that the company was paying for, but I saw another therapist. It was a court-appointed one. He had determined, and I’ll give it a grain of salt, depending on if you believe that stuff or not, that the issues I was having was something that I had probably been suffering for a very long time, like possibly even late teens. But there were certain lifestyle points I had chosen that naturally counteracted. One of the number one things to counter depression is physical activity. I told you, I played semi-professional racquetball. I was gym rat. I went to the club three or four hours, seven days a week, around my jobs, things like that. There were certain lifestyle changes that as you get older you stop doing, and this added to the natural stress I already had, the natural anxiety I usually had, and then you add that to just the anxiety and the stress of just being a grown adult taking care of children and my activity level went down to nothing. What it really did is it helped me find the trigger points and it helped me find, like, oh, it’s starting. We need to do something right now because it’s starting.
Traci Brown: Oh wow. Okay.
Ryan Homa: That’s, like I said, if I’m being overly quiet, everyone around me knows something’s wrong. I’ve heard this. Whether you want to tell me what’s wrong or not, you need to do something to fix this, whether it’s go play catch with the kids or go for a walk or cook. Don’t just sit there and stare at the TV. Don’t just fall into that dungeon again. I will say that I have greatly internally tried to figure out what triggers those moments and then to combat them before it happens. But I still see it happening. Like, oh, this is really bothering me. I need to do something about it.
Traci Brown: Right. So you are proactive now.
Ryan Homa: Yes. I’m much more proactive. Again, going to a place like Duluth and sitting in a room with 10 other guys, the same exact thing you did, the same exact way, the same exact feelings, it’s like I can hear other people tell their stories and it would be like, oh yea, when did this happen? Oh, this happened to me in January. It’s ridiculous how . . .
Traci Brown: Similar.
Ryan Homa: Similar it is. Then all of a sudden you realize, man, it’s just me being stupid. It’s not just me.
Traci Brown: Right. Now, would you consider yourself a better person now?
Ryan Homa: Now, yes. I would not consider myself a better person per se than when I was 20. I consider myself a better person than when I was performing my crime.
Traci Brown: Interesting.
Ryan Homa: It’s not like I’ve become a better person than I’ve ever been.
Traci Brown: Okay. Okay.
Ryan Homa: I’m just, I’m no longer the bad person.
Traci Brown: Okay.
Ryan Homa: If that makes sense.
Traci Brown: Okay. That’s pretty good. Little steps, right.
Ryan Homa: Yea.
Traci Brown: Would you do it again? Like, looking back?
Ryan Homa: No. No, no, no. I mean, two reasons, (a) I would not survive that depth anymore, and (b) the other joke is they gave me four years this time. The next time it’ll be 142.
Traci Brown: Yea.
Ryan Homa: Because the statute said what I did, I could have gotten 142 years.
Traci Brown: Wow. Okay.
Ryan Homa: Again, no one, the joke is murderers don’t get that much. Like there was no fear that they could do that, but 10 years is bad.
Traci Brown: Yea.
Ryan Homa: So yea. There is no . . . I look both ways and make sure my feet are in the crosswalk. It’s that ingrained in me now.
Traci Brown: Wow. So then, what would your advice be to someone who may be walking down your old path?
Ryan Homa: Wherever you are, leave that place right now. Whatever you think you can do, tell someone how you can do it. I had opportunities while I was doing it well before I was at my lowest point and on the verge of being caught where I have some solid friends that if I would have told them, man, you are not going to believe what I’ve been doing for a year and a half. They never would have left my side, but they never would have condoned it. They would have been like, okay, who do we need to talk to, once again, to get to the finish line? Like, we have got to stop this right now. I don’t know. I was so high strung and I was so worried about affecting other people, even though in retrospect I affected everyone, that I don’t think I could have done that because I would not have wanted to put that burden on somebody else. But I wished I would have. There are four people in my mind that through thick and thin would have like, okay, we’re going to get through this. First of all, you need to stop. Second of all, we need to call a lawyer. Thirdly, we need to figure out how we can . . . there is no correcting the situation. How can we get out of this situation? When I have done the speaking in front of people before, I mean, it’s in front of a room of finance and accounting people, and I say to them, I’m like, every one of you knows there is a weakness where you work. Whether you can take advantage of that weakness or not is beside the point. You know there is a weakness there. If you ever feel that you’re interested in that weakness, you need to talk to somebody. I don’t want that to seem like preachy, but . . .
Traci Brown: Oh, that’s interesting. Yea.
Ryan Homa: Because I don’t want to have them go through what – forget me, me being selfish. I don’t want them to put their friends and family through what I put my friends and family through. Because the truth of the matter is, I survived it. I don’t want to say I wear it like a badge of honor because I was very close to a point where there wasn’t an option for survival anymore. I don’t want to see anyone get that to there again. Because, selfishly, it’s too much pain on me. Here is someone that I could have helped. Where you’re like, you don’t know who that person is. No, no. I know who that person is because that person’s right here. I could have helped that person.
Traci Brown: Right.
Ryan Homa: That’s kind of . . . Like I said, if you know the weakness, it is one thing to know the weakness, it’s another thing to start thinking about the weakness. If you that weakness, you’ve got to talk to someone.
Traci Brown: What are you doing now to help people? Because you’re speaking, right. What else are you doing?
Ryan Homa: I am, you know, I’ve become that universal volunteer Dad. I’m doing the things that make me and my family happy. When I have an opportunity like with you, or with John Gill at the ACFE. 4
Traci Brown: ACFE. Yea.
Ryan Homa: I’m still willing to sit down and talk. Don’t get me wrong. It’s still therapeutic for me. But I kind of have a little bit of the two faced-ness. I don’t want to go out and start preaching to people, like you’re going to learn from my mistakes. You can’t, you don’t have the fortitude to do what I did wrong. I just kind of pick and choose. If I can kind of be that big brother to somebody or if I can, work comes to me and like, hey, we’re thinking about doing this. Do you see a bad idea in that? Yea, here’s why it’s a bad idea. Because the people I work for, they are 100% aware, full disclosure. I have friends now that I have made since I have been home. There are some that absolutely know, and there are some I think might know. There are some I know don’t know. But it’s gotten to the point where it’s been so long, again, the preachiness. I’m past the point where it’s like, hey, I can tell you what I did and hope you still like me. It’s kind of like, hey, it is what it is. If you find out about it, and it bothers you, let’s talk it out. You think you need to end the relationship, I 100% understand. Go with your decision. But I mean, this September will be 10 years.
Traci Brown: Oh boy. Yea.
Ryan Homa: I’ve gotten to the point where it’s like, I don’t want to say move on, because moving on means you are forgetting about it. But it’s past the point of encompassing my life.
Traci Brown: Got it. Got it. Wow. Now can people get a hold of you? Either to speak or to maybe help them just personally, like if they see . . .
Ryan Homa: My email is always available.
Traci Brown: What is that email, just so everybody . . . ?
Ryan Homa: It’s my name RyanHoma@gmail.com.
Traci Brown: There it is. Okay. So, if anybody needs to get a hold of him, you know how to do it now. Any parting words? Last tips for anyone? Any final thoughts?
Ryan Homa: No. I mean, like I said, the turnaround I’ve had, not only in my personal and professional life, like I wake up every day and I’m happy to be here. I am happy, as ridiculous as it sounds, to just live a normal life. I mean, most days when I can’t sleep, it’s because I still have too much energy. Not that this is going to move mountains, but the depths that I was at, I am still happy and I am still purposely making sure I’m not there again.
Traci Brown: Right.
Ryan Homa: It’s just, not that I don’t have bad days, not that there aren’t days on end where it’s just like, oh man, I don’t feel it, I just want to lie around and do nothing, but I’m, like I said, I’m back to the guy that I was in my 20s when I was just that happy, loud, slightly obnoxious guy that everyone just kind of hung out with.
Traci Brown: Oh, I love it. I’m glad that you made the turn back to just being happy. Because you can’t put a price on that. I’m really psyched that you just shared your story in the depth that you did. I’m hoping people will reach out to you for ideas when they may feel low or to help their company.
Ryan Homa: Yea, definitely.
Traci Brown: Yea. So, thank you for coming on Fraud Busting.
Ryan Homa: Not a problem. Thank you!