SAN ANTONIO -

A San Antonio businessman pleaded guilty on Thursday in a massive loss fraud and tax-related case.

According to a joint statement issued on behalf of United States Attorney Robert Pitman, FBI Special Agent in Charge Armando Fernandez and
IRS-Criminal Investigation Special Agent In Charge Steve McCullough, the $133 million "real dollar" fraud case is believed to be the largest on of its kind prosecuted in the Western District of Texas.

The businessman -- 61-year-old Charles Pircher -- pleaded guilty to a Klein tax fraud conspiracy charge and a mail fraud conspiracy charge.

According to court filings, from 2002 to 2008, Pircher managed a series of Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs) based in San Antonio, including Service Professionals.

In the guilty plea, Pircher admitted that he and two co-conspirators stole $133 million from clients who had entered into leasing agreements with Pricher’s company to manage their payroll and insurance programs, according to federal prosecutors.

“The bottom line is it’s lying, cheating and stealing,” Assistant US Attorney Tom McHugh said.

But it was a complex scheme, he added, that took federal investigators five years to build the government’s case.

McHugh likened it to peeling an onion.

“There are so many layers to the onion that need to be peeled back to go from the outside to go to the inside,” he said.

Pircher faces up to 20 years in federal prison on the mail fraud conspiracy charge and up to five years in federal prison on the Kline tax fraud conspiracy charge.

Pircher will be sentenced on March 14, 2014.

The investigation also resulted in guilty pleas by five defendants — Pircher; John D. Walker, II; John Bean; Mike Solis; and Pat Mire.

A sixth defendant, San Antonio businessman Larry W. Kimes, is scheduled for jury selection and trial on Jan. 23, 2014. Kimes is charged by federal grand jury indictment with one count of Klein tax fraud conspiracy, two counts of mail fraud conspiracy, one count of money laundering conspiracy and one substantive count of money laundering.

KSAT reporter Paul Venema contributed to this report.