Friday, February 27, 2015

South Carolina Woman Accused Of Embezzling $1 Million+ From Charter School In Vendor Fraud Scheme; Lived Lavishly

From The State on 2/25/2015:

Federal prosecutors Wednesday said a former public charter school director used shell companies to embezzle more than $1 million in federal funds provided to the school for food and educational purposes.

U.S. Attorney Winston Holliday alleged that 40-year-old Benita Dinkins-Robinson, director of the former Mary L. Dinkins Higher Learning Academy in Bishopville, siphoned off money using four shell companies – J and J Contracting, T and E Catering, New Age Computers and Project Reach – that accepted payments of school money.

The school was a part of the S.C. Public Charter School District – a growing group of 31 public schools with 17,000 students and 500 teachers across South Carolina in more than a dozen counties. The Legislature created the statewide charter school district in 2007 as a way to empower parents and others to set up public schools with different missions. The Dinkins school was closed in 2013 after the charter district voted to stop its funding.

The Dinkins school was in rural Lee County and qualified for Title I funding, which allowed it to receive money for food and education for the students from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Education.

But testimony from Janice Crocco, a former 5th grade teacher at the Dinkins school, suggested that the federal funds never benefited the students.

Crocco, who worked for the school for a little over five months beginning in December 2010, said students would often go without meals at lunch because there was no food. In those instances, students would have to wait until pizza was ordered at the school just before they were dismissed.
Crocco also said the school’s overall cleanliness and organization was in disarray. She said when she would take her 12 students to the bathroom, she often brought toilet paper with her because there wasn’t any in the doorless stalls. She also said that Dinkins-Robinson was at the school only two to three days out of the week and would often not show up for scheduled faculty meetings.

Holliday alleged that Dinkins-Robinson would use the funding from the government to pay for a catering company, T and E Catering, to provide food for students. However, Eleazor Carter, Dinkins-Robinson’s attorney, said that while his client was a business partner in the catering company, the state’s charter school district approved of their services. Carter also conceded that Dinkins-Robinson was a founding member of Project Reach and that her brother owned New Age Computers.

Along with large cash withdrawals from the school’s account, Holliday said Dinkins-Robinson would make out checks to pay rent for the building in which the school operated that were in excess of the rent amount due. He alleged that she would spend the extra money on lavish vacations and shopping sprees.

The Dinkins school at first operated under the Lee County School District. It asked to be authorized as a charter school in Sumter County, reporting to the state charter school district, after receiving pushback and alleged harassment from Lee County, according to Carter.

Clay Eaton, a witness for the prosecution and a former public relations director for the charter school district, said when he inspected the school between 2010 and 2012 after it applied to be authorized by the charter district, he noticed the school would report inflated students numbers to the charter district, sometimes by the dozens.

Each public school and public charter school receives funding from state and federal entities on a per-pupil basis. If a public school has a large amount of special needs students or a large student population in general, it gets a higher per-pupil amount from the federal government.

U.S. Judge Terry Wooten dismissed Wednesday’s hearing early in light of the winter storm moving through the state. Wooten said the next trial session will be held Friday, weather permitting.

Read more here: http://www.thestate.com/2015/02/25/4010299_opening-arguments-begin-in-million.html?rh=1#storylink=cpy

Thursday, February 26, 2015

California Woman Sentenced To 5+ Years For Embezzling $3.5 Million

From the Orange County Breeze on 2/25/2015:

A Huntington Beach woman was sentenced today to 63 months in federal prison for embezzling nearly $3.5 million from her former employer, a warehouse and trucking-services company.
Patricia A. Francisco, 62, was sentenced today by United States District Judge Cormac J. Carney after the defendant pleaded guilty in August to four counts of wire fraud.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Carney ordered Francisco to pay $3,474,199 in restitution to her former employer, California Multimodal, LLC (CM), which is based in Long Beach.

For more than fifteen years, Francisco stole money from CM, where she worked as a bookkeeper.
According to court documents, Francisco used three basic means to misappropriate company funds:
  • she stole company checks, which she made out to “cash;”
  • she caused checks to be written to legitimate vendors, which she then stole and deposited into her bank accounts; and
  • she created bogus expense vouchers for other employees, which allowed her to obtain checks that she deposited into her own accounts.
As part of her scheme, Francisco used a signature stamp belonging to her boss to sign the checks.
Francisco used the money to finance personal expenses, such as a $300,000 down payment on her house, a down payment on a condominium, a $40,000 Cadillac Escalade, approximately $100,000 worth of jewelry, and numerous trips to locations like Hawaii.

Francisco told investigators that she stole the money “because she wanted a better life,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum filed with the court that cited a simple motive for the crimes: “greed — she wanted to live a more luxurious lifestyle.”

Woman Indicted On Federal Charges For Emebezzlment From Washington State Non-profit

From the Bonney Lake Courier-Herald on 2/24/2015:

The former bookkeeper for the St. Vincent de Paul Society Stores of Tacoma, Washington, was arrested yesterday afternoon on an indictment returned by a federal grand jury charging her with multiple counts of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, announced Acting United States Attorney Annette L. Hayes.  ANGELA TONEY SAUCIDO, 44, was arrested in Phoenix, Arizona.

SAUCIDO moved from the Tacoma area to Phoenix in 2007, but continued to work for the charity as its bookkeeper.  The indictment alleges the embezzlement began at least in 2006 and continued through July 2013.  SAUCIDO will make her initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Arizona today, with future court appearances in Tacoma.

According to the indictment the embezzlement scheme involved a variety of frauds.  SAUCIDO would transfer funds from the St. Vincent de Paul Society Stores bank accounts to her own bank accounts and falsify entries making it appear the transfers were for legitimate purposes.  SAUCIDO forged signatures on checks and made electronic fund transfers to benefit her and her family.

 SAUCIDO made purchases for her personal use on the St. Vincent de Paul Society Stores Home Depot credit account, and then used the charity’s funds to pay for the purchases.  Finally, SAUCIDO used the identities of other employees to make it appear they had received additional pay when in fact she had deposited the money into bank accounts she and her husband controlled.

The indictment charges seven counts of wire fraud and four counts of aggravated identity theft.  Wire fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Aggravated Identity Theft is punishable by a mandatory two years of prison that must follow any term imposed on the wire fraud counts.

...

Read the whole story here.

Florida Man Sentenced To 2 Years For Embezzling More Than $1 Million From Art Gallery

From the Associated Press on 2/24/2015:

An Orlando-area art gallery employee has been sentenced to two years in prison for embezzling more than $1 million.

Jeffery Hall, of Maitland, was sentenced Monday to federal prison. Hall pleaded guilty to mail fraud in November.

Hall worked at an Orlando-area art gallery with locations in other parts of Florida. Prosecutors say he diverted proceeds from the sale of artwork to his personal bank accounts. They say he also used the gallery's artwork as collateral for loans.

California Woman Accused Of Embezzling $650K From Winery Pleads Not Guilty; Ran Local Crime Stoppers Web Site

From the Napa Valley Register on 2/24/2015:

A St. Helena woman accused of embezzling $650,000 from a winery pleaded not guilty to the charges on Tuesday.

Gerilee “Geri” Densberger’s next hearing will be on March 18 at 8:30 a.m. in Napa County Superior Court. She remains in jail, with bail set at $500,000.

Densberger was briefly a fugitive earlier this month before turning herself in to authorities. She’s familiar with fugitives — Densberger for years oversaw the Napa Valley Crime Stoppers website, where her name and photo appeared prior to her arrest.

Densberger, 50, is accused of stealing the money from Whitehall Lane Winery near St. Helena, where she worked as a bookkeeper and assistant between 2009 and last year, according to court records.

She’s suspected of embezzling more than $400,000 in payroll funds and depositing the money in bank accounts she controlled with her husband, Joseph Densberger.

She’s also accused of charging more than $200,000 to a credit card she opened in the winery’s name to pay her son’s college tuition and travel expenses in Nebraska, court records said.

She was fired from the family winery in November after the allegations were uncovered. The winery owners are also suing Densberger’s family to recoup the money, according to a civil complaint.

Thomas Leonardini Sr., owner of the winery, told the Register his family was shocked at the level of her dishonesty.

“Ms. Densberger was a trusted employee and was treated like a member of our family. Sadly, her actions have and will continue to hurt her own family and have a lasting effect on them.”

Densberger, a former board member at Napa Valley Crime Stoppers, resigned in November after the accusations.

In an interview in 2012, Densberger said she volunteered about 10 hours a week for the nonprofit organization, which gives cash rewards of up to $1,000 to anonymous tipsters for information leading to the arrest of suspects and fugitives.

California Woman Accused Of Embezzling $438K From Catholic School

From CBS Los Angeles on 2/24/15:

A former office manager for Holy Family Cathedral School in Orange was arrested Tuesday on charges of embezzling more than $400,000 from the school over a five-year period.

Adela Maria Tapia, 40, of Tustin, was arrested outside Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana as she dropped off one of her children for school, Senior Deputy District Attorney Marc Labreche said. She is accused of stealing about $438,000 between September 2006 and September 2011.

Tapia coordinated Holy Family’s scrip card program — fundraising cash cards which the school bought at a discount and sold at face value.The scrip card program raises about $200,000 for the school each year, prosecutors said.

Tapia allegedly took scrip cards from the school’s safe, sold them and kept the profits from those who paid cash, Labreche said. She also allegedly ordered scrip cards and pocketed the cash payments from selling them.

Labreche said Tapia sold the cards to family members, including an ordained deacon in the Diocese of Orange, for “lifestyle enhancement using other people’s money.” Prosecutors say Tapia used some of the stolen funds to buy luxury clothing and goods from department stores and to pay for tuition for her children at Holy Family Cathedral School and Mater Dei.

The alleged scheme was uncovered when Tapia was transferred to an office manager job and $120,000 in scrip cards were found missing.

The Diocese of Orange released the following statement:

“In 2012 Holy Family Cathedral School in Orange discovered that an employee had violated the trust of the school and parish through their mismanagement of the school’s scrip program. This employee was immediately released from their employment at the school after the irregularities in the scrips program were discovered and the matter was referred to law enforcement. After an exhaustive investigation the Orange County District Attorney has decided to pursue several criminal charges in this case.”

The school has since “instituted more robust financial controls to ensure this issue is not repeated,” according to the statement.

Labreche said the Diocese has been fully cooperative in the investigation.

Tapia, who is charged with two felony counts of grand theft by embezzlement and 13 felony counts of money laundering, was scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday. She could face up to 14 years and four months in prison if she is convicted at trial.

The case took several years to investigate because of its complexity, Labreche said.

“There’s 83,000 pages of discovery (evidence) in this case,” Labreche said.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Texas Woman Found Guilty To Embezzling $156K From Machine Shop

From the News-Journal on 2/24/2015:

A former machine shop employee was sentenced to 40 years in prison Friday for embezzling more than $150,000 over several years.

Tanya Marie Warrell McMillian, 43, of Whitehouse was found guilty of second-degree theft, but the prosecution was able to enhance her punishment to first-degree theft because of three prior felony convictions. McMillian also was assessed a $10,000 fine.

Rusk County District Attorney Micheal Jimerson said that “over the course of several years,” McMillian stole approximately $156,000 from her employer by altering the books or forging signatures.

“When the owners of the business confronted her about some of these discrepancies she admitted, on audio recording, that she did not know why she did it,” he said.

McMillian was arrested May 11 by Texas Department of Public Safety troopers.

Virginia Woman Accused Of Embezzling More Than $200K In Goods From Retailer

From NBC Washington on 2/23/2015:

A J.C. Penney employee in Virginia has been accused of stealing items worth hundreds of thousands of dollars from the store and reselling them.
 
Teresa Ann Stockton allegedly stole jewelry, women's clothing, cosmetics and perfume from the J.C. Penney store at Springfield Town Center. According to a search warrant, the investigation began when a store loss prevention officer reported items worth a total of $200,000 had been stolen from the store over the past two years.
 
Police were then given a list of jewelry department employees and discovered that Stockton had pawned numerous jewelry items. Court documents also revealed that she was selling merchandise on her eBay account.
 
Police seized jewelry, clothing and a watch from Stockton's Springfield home.
Stockton has been charged with two counts of embezzlement.

Michigan Woman To Face Trial For Embezzling $131K From Local Township; Had Served As Town Clerk

From The Times Herald on 2/23/2015:

Former Clay Township clerk Lisa White will face trial on charges of stealing more than $100,000 from the township.

White, 45, waived her preliminary examination Monday in St. Clair County Judge Cynthia Platzer’s courtroom on charges of embezzlement by a public official and embezzlement of more than $100,000.

White remained quiet while she stood beside her lawyer, Arthur Garton, during much of the court hearing. She told Platzer that she had moved from Harsens Island to an address in Fair Haven.
White declined to comment on the case prior to the hearing.

Police have said White embezzled about $131,000 from the township between 2009 and 2014.
She allegedly added the money to her husband’s salary at the township fire department, and her own salaries as clerk and as captain at the Clay Township Fire Department.

Embezzlement by a public official is a 10-year felony. Embezzlement of $100,000 or more is a 20-year felony.

White resigned her position as clerk last week. She had not been to the township offices since the November election.

She was elected clerk in 2008 and was paid about $55,000 a year as clerk.

Clay Township Supervisor Artie Bryson said anyone interested in completing White’s term as clerk should send a resume and cover letter to supervisor@claytownship.org. White’s term expires Nov. 20, 2016.

The board will consider those applications received.

The township board has 45 days to appoint a new clerk. Otherwise, the matter will be decided in a special election, Bryson said.

In October, Clay Township said it expected it would face about $700,000 in fines from the Internal Revenue Service because of errors made in the clerk’s office.

The Michigan State Police began an investigation into the matter, which led to the embezzlement charge against White in early February.

A second charge of embezzlement of $100,000 or more was added Wednesday.

White served on the township fire department up until the township board of trustees removed her from her position as captain in November.

White’s $50,000 bond was continued at the end of the hearing Monday. A date for White’s circuit court arraignment has not been set.

Florida Woman Sent To Prison For Embezzling Again While On Probation For Conviction In $400K Embezzlement Case

From the Bradenton Herald on 2/21/2015:

Already convicted of fraud, Bradenton bookkeeper, sentenced to prison for committing more fraud

MANATEE -- A Bradenton bookkeeper was sentenced to eight years in prison after violating her probation from a 2009 case in which she embezzled more than $400,000 from an employer by committing fraud against another employer, voter fraud and insurance fraud, according to the State Attorney's Office.

Annique Lesage, currently going by her married name, Annique Newton, will serve eight years in a Florida prison followed by 15 years probation in which she will be required to complete paying her restitution and undergo a physiological evaluation, according to a news release.

Lesage's first violation arose after her arrest in July 2013, when she was charged with scheming to defraud Cactus Sky Communications, a small Bradenton marketing firm, after allegedly helping herself to more than $17,000. At the time, she was still on probation for the sentence she received in a 2009 Sarasota case when she was convicted of first-degree grand theft and fraudulent use of credit cards.

Newton received a 21.9-month prison sentence and 28 years' probation in that case.

The terms of Newton's probation stipulated that she needed to report any new employment to her probation officer, who then must contact the employer to assure them she was not handling money.

Lesage is set to stand trail in the scheming to defraud case during the March 16 two-week trial period.
In November, Lesage was sentenced to credit for time served after entering a plea of no contest in the voting-fraud and insurance-fraud charges against her. ... Read the whole story here.

Read more here: http://www.bradenton.com/2015/02/21/5648557_bradenton-bookkeeper-convicted.html?rh=1#storylink=cpy

California Woman Sought In $1.86 Million Embezzlement; Used Alias To Originally Get Job

From the Orange County Register on 2/20/2015:

The FBI is searching for a fugitive accused of embezzling $1.86 million from her employer under a false name last year, the agency said in a criminal complaint file Feb. 11.

From May 2013 to September 2014, investigators said Alma Edith Letona, using the name Olga Figueroa, used her position as a payroll tax account at Roth Staffing Companies in Orange to divert company funds into a personal bank account.

Most of the deposit amounts were in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, the complaint said. Letona used the stolen money to purchase two Lake Forest properties - one in her own name. The United States Attorney's Office has since filed to take control of the properties.

Letona was employed at Roth from March 2013 to October 2014. She was fired because of attendance and time card issues, the complaint said.

Two months after being let go, the company discovered 10 unauthorized wire transfers made to a Bank of America account in the name of Roth's third-party payroll processing service.

Letona opened the account in September 2014 under Andrea Elizabeth Letona, and put herself as the signatory.

In addition, she took 200 checks intended for employees hired by Roth and deposited them into a Navy Federal Credit Union account. The checks were eventually reissued to the right employees.

Investigators found out Letona's real name after examining a personal check she provided Roth for direct deposit information. Her real name was scratched out, and the false name was handwritten above. Examining the check under a light revealed the scratched-out name.

Letona's alias include Olga Iris Figueroa, Alma Olga Iris Manjama and Olga Iris Manjang.

Anyone with information as to Letona's whereabouts should contact the FBI at 714-939-8699.

Pennsylvania Man Accused Of Embezzling Nearly $300K From Local Metal Fabricator

From WGAL News 8 on 2/21/2015:

Police say, charges have been filed against Ryan S. Troop of York in connection with the embezzlement of close to $300,000.

Hellam Township police began investigating missing money from Stewart Welding and Fabrication in Wrightsville in December.

Investigators say, with the assistance of the business, it was discovered that Troop had embezzled the money by creating an unauthorized credit card and used company funds to pay off the card.
According to police, Troop also used an authorized card provided by the business to make personal purchases, but then submitted altered credit card statements for payments on the accounts.

Iowa Woman Pleads Guilty To Embezzling $123K From Bank

From The Gazette on 2/21/2015:

A former Manchester bank secretary pleaded guilty Friday to embezzling over $123,000 from the bank over a two-year period.

Ann Marie Sperfslage, 54, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to one count of embezzlement by a bank employee. During the hearing, Sperfslage, the former secretary to the bank’s executive vice president, admitted embezzling $123,181 from May 2008 to May 2010 from First State Bank. She also admitted to embezzling with the intent to defraud the bank.

According to the plea agreement, she had worked at the bank since 1992. She was the vice president’s secretary and also worked with the bank’s software and computer systems until she was terminated in 2010. According to the plea agreement, Sperfslage created false electronic records and documents showing that the bank had loaned her and her husband more money than the bank actually loaned them. They had two home equity loans for $50,000 and $35,000 and another loan for $3,500, but she changed the electronic records to $99,700 and $90,000 for the home equity loans and $18,000 on the other loan.

She also deposited other customers’ deposits in her accounts so that it appeared as if she was making payments on the loan, according to the plea agreement.

Sperfslage also reversed the false deposits and then deposited the funds into the correct accounts before the customers and bank discovered she had misapplied the deposits. She misapplied $81,946 in customers’ deposits over the two years, the plea deal said.

She faces up to 30 years in prison and fines up to $1 million. She also will be ordered to pay restitution.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

California Woman Accused Of Embezzling $100K From Brokerage Firm

From the Desert Sun on 2/18/2015:

A La Quinta woman is accused of embezzling $100,000 from a brokerage firm where she worked.
Isabel Sonia Bandzej, 48, was arrested 7:30 a.m. Friday at her home in the 54-000 block of Avenida Velasco, according to the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.

Her job was to maintain payment invoices for clients of the company. Its name wasn't released.
According to the sheriff's department, the suspect took money from a business bank account over the past year. An investigation began recently after the business owner received a collections notice from a client.

Authorities searched the suspects home and found evidence that supported allegations of embezzlement.

Bandzej was arrested on 50 counts of embezzlement and 47 counts of burglary, according to the sheriff's department.

...

Read the whole story here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Texas Woman Sentenced To 3+ Years For Embezzling $366K From Bank

From KLTV Ch.7 on 2/17/2015:
A 55-year-old Murchison, Texas woman has been sentenced to federal prison for embezzlement in the Eastern District of Texas, announced U.S. Attorney John M. Bales.
Deborah Cornett pleaded guilty on June 9, 2014 to embezzlement by a bank employee and was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Leonard Davis. Cornett was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $365,988.43.

According to information presented in court, from November 2007 to May 2013, Cornett was an officer and employee of the First State Bank of Ben Wheeler. During that time, Cornett embezzled from bank payroll accounts, the bank Christmas Club account, certificates of deposit, and from fraudulently issued bank loans.

...

Read the whole story here.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Nebraska Man Sentenced For Embezzling $259K From Insurance Clients

From the Lincoln Journal Star on 2/13/2015:

Gerald C. Bryce of Raymond will serve 18 months in prison and three years on supervised release for committing mail fraud.

As an insurance agent, Bryce, 50, collected premium payments from customers to be sent to the company providing the coverage, U.S. Attorney Deborah R. Gilg said in a news release. But one couple found that their life insurance policies lapsed because he had not forwarded the money. In 2011, they had paid him $259,167.19 for life insurance policies that had lapsed.

His failure to do so was not immediately discovered as Bryce had the information from the insurance companies mailed to him. After learning of the lapsed policies, the victims filed a civil suit and, as part of a settlement in that case, Bryce did pay some of the money he stole.

In 2010, he defrauded another couple of $41,983.55, telling them to withdraw the cash value of a life insurance policy they owned and give him the money for safekeeping. He said he was concerned about a former business partner taking the money. Bryce then changed the mailing address of that couple to his address and kept the money for himself.

The federal judge who sentenced Bryce also ordered him to pay $107,591.51 to the two couples. That amount accounts for the losses they incurred that were not covered by the civil case.

...

Read the whole story here.