Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Washington State Woman Charged With Embezzling More Than $215K; Gambling Involved

From KIROTV on 4/29/13:

Oak Harbor bookkeeper accused of embezzlement

By Lee Stoll

Detectives in Oak Harbor want to hear from any groups that hired a local woman to handle accounts and bookkeeping.

According to court papers, 50-year-old Wendy Murphy stole more than $200,000 from two community homeowner association accounts.

"I try not to think too much about her because you shouldn't think things like that about people," said Treasurer Dan Kelly.

Kelly didn't know anything was missing from the Rolling Hills Glencairn Community account until the bank called in February. Murphy had apparently billed more than $20,000 in cash advances to a company credit card. Kelly checked the books and found another $30,000 missing from the reserve fund.

"We feel betrayed," said office manager Valerie Wiley.

Board members say Murphy collected water bill payments form residents and they claim she pocketed anything paid in cash. They also say money was moved to hide charges at a local casino.

Detectives say Murphy stole another $168,000 from the Hillcrest Village Water Company.

"Maybe she's kept books for other people that we're unaware of so we're asking them to come forward if they have similar issues," said Island County Sheriff Mark Brown.

Kelly said Murphy called and apologized. According to court papers, Murphy told police she stole money and was going to give them a statement. She hired a lawyer and is now apparently not talking.

Kelly said the money was going to pay for improvements in the middle-income community, including a new pool deck and water softener system.

"We're not rolling in money. We wouldn't be rolling in money even if she hadn't stolen anything," said Kelly.

Murphy had access to personal accounts. They have been reviewed and nothing is missing. Kelly said he never had a reason to be suspicious.

"Everything had been perfect for a long time and we never thought to ask," said Kelly

Former Pennsylvania Bank Exec Sentenced To 3 1/2 Years For Embezzling $719K; Blames Gambling & Alcohol Addictions

From the Times-Leader on 4/29/13:

Ex-bank executive sentenced on fraud charges

By Edward Lewis

WILKES-BARRE — A former investment broker with PNC Bank was sentenced Monday to 42 months in federal prison on charges he swindled more than $700,000 from the bank and eight customers.

Nicholas Polito Jr., of Scranton, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge A. Richard Caputo on a charge of bank fraud.

Polito’s attorneys, Patrick Casey and Lawrence Moran, blamed addictions to alcohol and gambling for why their client stole investments from eight elderly customers of PNC Bank.

Federal authorities said Polito was working as an investment broker with PNC Bank in Scranton when he stole money from 2005 to November 2011.

U.S. Assistant Attorney John Gurganus said PNC Bank repaid customers — including interests for their stolen investments. Polito repaid one customer $42,070 prior to being sentenced Monday and was ordered by Caputo to pay PNC Bank restitution of $673,349.

“The nature and circumstances of the offense is extremely serious,” Caputo told Polito, noting Polito violated the “trust” he earned from his employer and customers.

“Everything we do every day is trust,” Caputo said. “When you inject money into the situation, it is magnified. Seven or eight people would have been wiped out if PNC Bank did not compensate them.”

“I stole their money,” Polito said before being sentenced. “I lost their trust in me. I want to personally apologize. The guilt that I have will be with me for the rest of my life.”

Polito’s son, Nicholas III, said his father sought help for alcohol and gambling addictions prior to being charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in October 2012.

Nicholas III, of Connecticut, said his father had driven to his home in November 2011 to inform him about the thefts, an act that Caputo appreciated.

“That is the greatest lesson you’ll ever give him by driving to Connecticut and telling your son,” Caputo told Polito.

Caputo ordered Polito to begin serving his sentence on June 3.

Liquor Store Cashier In Vermont Charged With Embezzling $151K; Blames Gambling Addiction

From the Rutland Herald on 4/30/13:

Cashier answers to $151K embezzlement

By Brent Curtis

Fair Haven police say Denise Ballard was skimming more than just a little off the top.

The 45-year-old appeared in Rutland criminal court Monday, where she pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of embezzling from the liquor store she worked at for nine years on Liberty Street in Fair Haven.

During an 18-month span from May 2010 to November 2012, Ballard allegedly stole $151,387 from Liberty Street Discount Beverage, police said.

The Fair Haven woman allegedly voided valid sales and then withdrew money from the register. In an interview with police, Ballard allegedly said she would void sales and take money from the register one or two days a week in amounts varying from $100 to $500 at a time.

Ballard also told police she was having financial problems at the time related to household matters and a gambling addiction. She told police that sometimes she would use the extra money in her register to purchase lottery tickets.

Police Sgt. Shaun Hewitt said in an affidavit that when she was confronted about the thefts, Ballard said “she wished she had never done this and that she had a lot of guilt ever since she had started.” Hewitt said Ballard’s activities were discovered by owner Steven Wolk after new security cameras were installed.

Reached at the store Monday, Wolk said he was struggling with not only the financial loss but the betrayal of a longtime employee.

“We’re waiting for the court and restitution to pay back the money,” he said. “It was quite a blow to us financially but personally. One hundred and fifty thousand dollars is a lot of money, but it’s more than that.”

Despite the financial strain, Wolk said his business had survived.

No bail was set for Ballard, who also pleaded innocent to a misdemeanor count of petty larceny. She was released from court on conditions that included that she stay away from Liberty Street Discount Beverage.

Update (4/30/13): Ballard has pleaded not guilty to the charges she embezzled more than $151,000 from Liberty Street Discount Beverage.

Ohio Man Indicted On Charges He Allegedly Embezzled Over $1 Million From Insurance Carrier

From Insurance News on 4/28/13:

Ohio Man Indicted For Theft Of $1 M From Annuity Accounts

CLEVELAND, April 26 -- The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio issued the following news release:

A Mansfield man was indicted on charges that he embezzled more than $1 million from an customer annuity accounts at an insurance company where he worked, said Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of OhioWillard C. Lee, age 51, was indicted on one count each of insurance embezzlement and wire fraud. Lee was employed by Allstate. The indictment alleges that Lee embezzled approximately $1,056,000 from Allstate customer annuity accounts between July 2007 and December 2011. Lee forged customer signatures on withdrawal requests to Allstate and Lincoln Benefit  Life, a company wholly owned by Allstate, which sells annuities, according to the indictment.  Once fraudulent paperwork was submitted, Lee had the proceeds wire-transferred into bank accounts he controlled in Mansfield, according to the indictment.  The case was presented for indictment by Assistant United States Attorney James V. Moroney following an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation;'s Mansfield office, who in turn were following up an investigation by the Investigative Services unit of the Allstate Insurance Company.  If convicted, the defendant's sentence will be determined by the court after review of factors unique to this case, including the defendant's prior criminal record, if any, the defendant's role in the offense and the characteristics of the violation. In all cases, the sentence will not exceed the statutory maximum and in most cases it will be less than the maximum.  An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government's burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Florida Man Creates Fake Insurance Company; Bilks Carrier Out Of "Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars"

From the Pensacola News-Journal on 4/29/13:

Cantonment insurance agent arrested for alleged fraud
Written by Eric Heisig
A Cantonment insurance agent was arrested late Sunday for creating a fake employment company to write fraudulent life insurance policies and profit off of them, authorities said.

Randall Peterson, 47, wrote 285 fake policies with American National Insurance Co., according to the state Chief Financial Officer’s office. The fake company, College Consultants of the Gulf Coast, tried to get individuals to attend employment seminars in Florida, Georgia and Mississippi and have them apply for life-insurance policies, the release says.

American National Insurance Company paid Petersen hundreds of thousands of dollars in commissions and bonuses, the news release says, and the fraud became apparent when the policies were canceled for nonpayment.

Petersen, arrested Sunday, is in the Escambia County Jail, being held on a $30,000 bond. He is charged with insurance fraud, grand theft and criminal use of personal identification, among other charges.

Investigators are still looking into his actions, and the outcome may affect his insurance license, the release says.

Maryland Woman Charged With Embezzling $453K; Buys House In Ghana

From the Associated Press on 4/29/13:

Woman charged with embezzling $453K from employer; allegedly use money to buy house in Africa

GREENBELT, Maryland — A Landover woman has been indicted on charges of embezzling more than $453,000 from her employer and using the money to buy a house in Africa, expensive electronics and jewelry.

A federal grand jury in Greenbelt indicted 40-year-old Mercy Coffie-Joseph on Monday. She is charged with wire fraud, money laundering and identity theft.

According to the 10-count indictment, Coffie-Joseph worked at Systems Assessment & Research Inc. and had the authority to make electronic payments on the firm's behalf.

Prosecutors say Coffie-Joseph transferred money from her employer's account to her own. Authorities say she bought a house in Ghana.

Prosecutors says items seized in a raid on Coffie-Joseph's home include a video camera worth about $10,000; a Gucci handbag worth about $885, diamond earrings and necklace and a Movado watch

Virginia Woman Sentenced To 4 Years For Embezzling $150K From Plumbing Concern

From Fredericksburg.com on 4/29/13:

Embezzlement nets woman prison time
 BY KEITH EPPS A woman who stole nearly $150,000 from her employer over the past few years was ordered Monday to serve four years in prison. Elizabeth Ann Boutchyard, 36, of Stafford County was sentenced by Judge David Beck to a total of 20 years with 16 years suspended. She had previously pleaded guilty in Spotsylvania County Circuit Court to four counts of embezzlement. According to Commonwealth’s Attorney Bill Neely, Boutchyard stole at least $149,850 from Southern Spotsylvania Plumbing, where she worked as the office manager between 2009 and last year. Neely said she spent the stolen money on such things as family bills, breast implants and tattoos.On July 24, according to court records, Boutchyard went to co-owner Jake Cornwell and admitted she had been forging his wife’s name on checks “for about a year.” She then used the checks to steal money from the company. Neely said more than 100 checks were forged. Neely said Boutchyard came forward only after realizing that she was about to be caught.Scott Stevens, the company’s certified public accountant, had been trying for weeks to get the company’s 2012 financial records. Boutchyard avoided providing them as long as she could and realized Stevens would discover her crimes once he got them, court records state. Cornwell promptly fired Boutchyard and reported the theft to the Sheriff’s Office. He initially thought about $50,000 had been stolen, but the investigation showed it was much more. In arguing for a stiff sentence Monday, Neely said Boutchyard’s theft has had a devastating effect on the Cornwells and the company. He said Jake Cornwell has had to go back to working 60- to 70-hour weeks despite physical ailments.He also pointed out that Boutchyard had prior embezzlement and bad check convictions. A sobbing Boutchyard, who was represented by attorney Ghislaine Storr Burks, expressed remorse for her actions and asked for mercy. Beck also ordered Boutchyard to make restitution of $108,749 to the Cornwells and $39,568 to Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. as part of the conditions of the suspended portion of her sentence.

California Man Charged With Embezzling $676K From Bank

From the Sacramento Bee on 4/29/13:

Cameron Park man arraigned on bank embezzlement charges
Posted by Cathy Locke

A 34-year-old Cameron Park man was arraigned today in federal court in Sacramento on charges of bank embezzlement.

Ethan George Banaszak pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released on $75,000 bond, according to a federal Department of Justice news release. He is to appear before U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. for a status conference May 17.

A federal grand jury returned an eight-count indictment Thursday charging Banaszak with embezzling thousands of dollars from his employer, a federally insured bank. According to court records, Banaszak allegedly made more than $660,000 in unauthorized withdrawals from bank customers' accounts and took $16,000 in cash from the bank's vault.

Read more here: http://blogs.sacbee.com/crime/archives/2013/04/cameron-park-man-arraigned-on-bank-embezzlement-charges.html#storylink=cpy

North Carolina Man Pleads Guilty To Embezzling $2 Million From Trade Business

From the News-Record on 4/27/13:

A man accused of taking about $2 million from his former employer, pleaded guilty Monday in Guilford County Superior Court to five counts of obtaining property under false pretenses.

Eric Wayne Neal, 47, received two sentences of four years, 10 months to 6 years, seven months each, according to court documents.
Neal worked for Elrod Electrical Service in Greensboro. He was accused of inflating sub-contractor invoices.
Company owner Linda Elrod said Neal had been an employee for more than 20 years and handled the company’s residential business.
“A lot of the padding he did was for technical stuff that he knew I wouldn’t know was OK or not,” Elrod said. “But I would question the amount on the invoices, and he would always assure me that he had been over them and that they were correct.”
Elrod said the wrongdoing came to light through another employee, who questioned the ordering of excess materials.
Neal was carged after an investigation last year.
In addition to the counts he pleaded guilty to, Neal was charged with one count of embezzlement and one count of obtaining property under false pretenses, which were dismissed.
Neal’s attorney Marc Tyrey did not respond to a request for comment Friday morning.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Bank Teller In Pennsylvania Charged With Embezzling $129K

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on 4/24/13:

Head teller from Troy Hill charged with embezzlement
By Rich Lord

A Troy Hill woman used her position at a bank to shift funds through a relative's account and into her own, according to an indictment accusing her of embezzlement and making false entries.

Diana Phillips, 39, was an assistant branch manager and head teller for a First National Bank branch, according to the indictment posted to the U.S. District Court docket today. She is accused of creating fictitious ledger entries to cover up transfers into an unnamed relative's holiday account. She then moved the money, totaling $129,318, into her account and that of her husband, according to the indictment.

If convicted, she should be ordered to forfeit the proceeds, according to the indictment.

Upstate New York Woman Pleads Guilty To Charges She Embezzled $1.3 Million From Stainless Steel Maker

From WKBW Ch. 7 on 4/29/13:

Woman Pleads Guilty To Embezzling Approx. $1.3 Million From Employer

By Mitch Simon

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) - An Arcade woman plead guilty, as charged, Monday morning after she stole approximately $1.3 million from her employer.

44-year-old Debra Davis plead guilty to Grand Larceny, Falsification of Business Records, and Offering a False Instrument for Filing. Davis admitted that between October of 2010 and September of 2012, she stole the money by embezzlement and falsifying company financial records.

The embezzlement occurred while employed as a bookkeeper for American Stainless Corporation in Buffalo.

Davis also admitted she evaded paying state income taxes by failing to report these ill-gotten earnings on her NYS Income Tax returns.

Davis used the money for gambling, buying a tow-truck business named "Triple Star Towing," which she named after her favorite slot machine game, and to purchase various consumer goods.

Davis faces up to 25 years in prison when she is sentenced on July 22nd.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

California Man Sentenced For Embezzling $150K From Community College

From The Skyline View on 4/27/13:

District embezzlement update

Renee Abu-Zaghibra
The man charged with embezzling money from the district last October has been sentenced April 26.
Bradley Witham, director of information technology support at the San Mateo County Community College District, was charged with embezzlement on Oct. 26. Witham embezzled $150,000 in computer equipment, which he then resold.

Steve Wagstaffe, District Attorney, attended the sentencing hearing April 26. As reported by Wagstaffe, Witham will receive three years in prison. The defense had requested two years while the district attorney requested four years.

“The judge decided to go in the middle,” said Wagstaffe.

According to Kathy Blackwood, chief financial officer of the district, Witham was caught when he tried turning in receipts that did not match what was purchased. The system has been changed since then in order to assure that this does not happen again.

Purchases will be placed by an individual, but not by the person who will be receiving the item. The receipts will then be put through a thorough review, then scanned, uploaded and finally audited. Auditors now have a system in place that will help sort and look at the receipts in order to spot anything suspicious or anything that doesn’t follow the guidelines.

“We plan to be efficient and do the best in every way possible,” said Blackwood.

Note: the defedant's full name is Bradley John Witham, 42.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Former California Banker Charged With Embezzling $775K

From San Diego News 6 on 4/25/13:

Chula Vista Banker at Wells Fargo Branch Charged With Defrauding Bank and Customers

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A Chula Vista banker was charged with defrauding Wells Fargo and several of its customers by stealing and laundering about $775,000 from Wells Fargo customer accounts, according to a federal indictment unsealed Thursday.

Ricardo Adolfo Benavente III faces 80 felony counts, including bank fraud, embezzlement and aggravated identity theft. He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment today.

According to the indictment, Benavente, a banker at a Wells Fargo branch office in Chula Vista, used his access privileges at the bank to move hundreds of thousands of dollars from the accounts of Wells Fargo customers into accounts he controlled.

The indictment further alleges that in many instances Benavente laundered the stolen funds in order to disguise the fact that he had stolen them.

Between April and October of 2009, Benavente stole the funds from the accounts of four Wells Fargo customers, according to the indictment.

Benavente, 27, allegedly funneled the stolen funds through various Wells Fargo accounts that he created and controlled, and which he had opened in the name of fictitious customers expressly for the purpose of conducting a scheme to defraud.

In one case, Benavente allegedly funneled stolen funds through a PayPal account that he had set up in the name of one of his victims, in order to disguise the fact that the money had been stolen.

Benavente then used the PayPal account to direct the funds to his own bank, the indictment states.

The indictment alleges that in furtherance of the fraud scheme, Benavente stole and used the names and account numbers of his various victims in order to create the appearance that the transactions were being conducted by the customers themselves.

Benavente also created a trail of fraudulent bank instruments, such as withdrawal slips and cashier's checks, which he used to steal money from his victims' accounts and direct those funds to accounts he controlled, the indictment alleges.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Former Bank Manager In California Indicted For Allegedly Embezzling $320K

From the San Jose Mercury News on 4/24/13:

Former bank manager facing prison for embezzlement

SACRAMENTO, Calif.—Federal prosecutors say a former manager of a rural Northern California bank is facing up to 30 years in prison for allegedly embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in Sacramento says 52-year-old Roxanna Foley is free on a $50,000 bond after a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging her with theft and embezzlement. Prosecutors say between October 2011 and March 2012 Foley embezzled about $320,000 from the Eastern Sierra Community Bank in Bridgeport, where she was employed as a manager. U.S. attorney's spokeswoman Lauren Horwood said Wednesday that Foley is scheduled to appear in court on May 29 for a status conference. It was not known if Foley had retained an attorney. Bridgeport is a community of several hundred people in remote Mono County, about 120 miles south of Reno, Nev., or about 350 miles north of Los Angeles.

Former Community Arts Center Employee In Georgia Pleads Guilty To Embezzling $1.1 Million

From the Associated Press on 4/23/2013:

Former Woodruff Arts Center employee pleads guilty to embezzling more than $1 million

ATLANTA — A former employee of the Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta on Tuesday pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $1.1 million from the organization that offers a variety of visual and performing arts.

Ralph Clark, 42, entered a guilty plea in federal court after reaching a deal with federal prosecutors, who are recommending a sentence of 41 to 51 months in prison. Chief U.S. District Court Judge Julie Carnes told Clark he would likely also be ordered to pay restitution. Sentencing is set for Aug. 7.

"The Woodruff Arts Center is an important part of the fabric of our community," said U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. "This defendant embezzled over $1 million from funds intended for the benefit of our citizens."

Clark worked at the Woodruff Arts Center as an HVAC mechanic from October 2004 until he was fired in October of last year, prosecutors said. He was promoted to director of facilities in the last two years of his employment, and his duties included maintaining the center's infrastructure.

He was authorized to approve vendor contracts up to $50,000, and prosecutors say he stole more than $1.1 million from the center between November 2005 and October 2012.

He used his wife's apartment cleaning business to bill the arts center for services that either were not provided or that he performed himself, prosecutors said. He also hired a maintenance company and said that if the company wanted future work at the arts center, it would have to submit inflated invoices and give him kickbacks of 30 percent.

The center began an internal audit after a supervisor raised questions about invoices submitted by Clark. Prosecutors say Clark admitted to the embezzlement when presented with the findings of the internal investigation.

The Woodruff Arts Center includes the Alliance Theatre, High Museum of Art, Young Audiences, 14th Street Playhouse and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

Update (3/4/14): Clark was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison.

Bank Teller In Pennsylvania Charged With Embezzling $129K

From the Associated Press on 4/24/2013:

Feds: Pittsburgh teller embezzled $129,000 by transferring money through relative's account

PITTSBURGH — An assistant branch manager and head teller at a Pittsburgh bank has been charged with embezzling more than $129,000.

A federal grand jury charges that 39-year-old Diana Phillips worked at a First National Bank branch when he used her position to move bank funds into a relative's holiday account and then into her own joint checking account shared with her husband.

Investigators say Phillips faked ledger entries to cover up the fraudulent transfers.

Federal prosecutors want her to forfeit the allegedly stolen money if she's convicted.

Online court records don't list an attorney for Phillips.

Update (2/7/2015): Phillips was sentenced to 6 months in prison. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Pennsylvania Physician Pleads Guilty To $500K Fraud/Embezzlement

From the Philadelphia Inquirer on 4/23/2013:

Central Pa. doc pleads to fraud, embezzlement

HARRISBURG, Pa. - A central Pennsylvania physician has pleaded guilty to embezzling his employees' retirement funds and overbilling Medicare and private health insurers for more than $500,000.

Forty-four-year-old Dr. Timothy Clark entered the plea Monday before a federal judge in Harrisburg who will sentence Clark on July 29.

Clark owned Central Pennsylvania Pulmonary Associates and Sleep Disorder Centers of Central Pennsylvania when he committed the crimes.

Federal prosecutors say Clark failed to deposit 401(k) contributions into employee accounts, instead putting the money into bank accounts he controlled and losing $25,000 in the process. Clark also inflated claims to Medicare, Highmark and Capital Blue Cross and transferred approximately $103,000 he received from those overcharges into payroll and money market accounts.

Public TV Exec In Massachusetts Accused Of Embezzling $110K

From the Taunton Gazette on 4/23/2013:

Rehoboth public TV exec arraigned on embezzlement charges
By Marc Larocque
The Rehoboth Public Access Corp. television station vice president accused of embezzling more than $110,000 was arraigned on Tuesday morning in Fall River Superior Court.

Edward Schagrin, who has acted as vice president of Rehoboth’s local-access television network, was held on $5,000 cash bail by Judge Raymond Veary.

The charges were brought against Schagrin after a six-month-long investigation into the Rehoboth Public Access Corp. (REPAC), coordinated by Bristol County Assistant District Attorney Patrick O. Bomberg, along with state police and Rehoboth Police Detective Brian Ramos.

Prosecutors allege that Schagrin, acting as a REPAC board member, embezzled more than $110,000, as well as video recording/editing equipment from REPAC and the town government of Rehoboth. The scheme, according to the investigation, was ongoing for several years.

Upon the conclusion of the investigation into Schagrin, Rehoboth police seized more than $110,000 from a number of area banks, according to the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office. Prosecutors said the money was part of the embezzlement and larceny scheme.

A press release from the district attorney’s office recounts some of the details of the embezzlement allegations.

“Amongst other things, the investigation revealed that in October 2011 Mr. Schagrin wrote himself a check from the REPAC account for $117,000 for ‘technical support’ he says he provided REPAC between 2008 and 2011,” the statement said. “The accounting of his work hours, however, is contradicted by annual state public charity financial reports and tax filings from the years in question.”

In addition to the $5,000 bail, Veary ordered Schagrin not to transfer any money or property from REPAC accounts during the pendency of the case.

The Gazette so far has been unable to reach Schagrin or his legal representation for comment.

Municipal Official In Michigan Charged With Embezzling At Least $250K From Funeral Home

From the Lansing State Journal on 4/22/2013:

St. Johns official charged in embezzlement of more than $250K from funeral home
ST. JOHNS — A member of the St. Johns City Commission has been charged with embezzling more than $250,000 from a funeral home where he worked as a consultant.
David Hudgens, who was elected to the city commission in 2011, was arraigned Tuesday in Clinton County District Court on five counts of embezzlement. He faces up to 20 years in prison. His bond was set at $500,000.
Investigators say he embezzled the money over a six-year period from Osgood Funeral Home in St. Johns where he was employed as a funeral consultant.
Hudgens’ court-apppointed attorney, Ronald Zawacki, declined to comment. Hudgens, 52, said at the arraignment that his assets had been frozen and he could not afford an attorney.
A well-known business and civic leader, Hudgens is on the board of the Clinton County Chamber of Commerce and is a former president of the organization. He also holds a board position with the St. Johns Mint Festival Steering Committee.
Stan Willis, who owns the funeral home with his wife Bridget, said he went to the sheriff’s office and asked for an investigation last week after discovering discrepancies from pre-paid funeral accounts.
“I thought ‘this isn’t right’ and immediately took my suspicions to the police,” Willis said. He said he was shocked and felt betrayed as the investigation unfolded.
Hudgens was arrested Monday at the funeral home, said Clinton County Sheriff Det. Sgt. Sean Dush, who headed the investigation.
Willis said the funeral home will honor all pre-arrangements. The couple took over ownership of the funeral home in January. Bridget Willis is a member of the Osgood family which has owned the funeral home for more than 100 years.
Dush said the investigation is continuing, and may include bank accounts for local civic groups that Hudgens may have handled.
Dennis LaForest, St. Johns City Manager, said elected officials in the city do not have access to city finances.
“There are definite checks and balances in place to protect public funds,” LaForest said. “We are all shocked and saddened that this has happened, not only to a local business, but to the people of St. Johns.”
A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for May 2. The hearing determines if there is enough evidence for Hudgens to stand trial.

Former Wrestling Promoter In Oregon Is Sentenced For Embezzling $516K From Local Manufacturer

From The Oregonian on 4/22/2013:

Ex-wrestling promoter gets 8 years in $500,000 embezzlement
By Rick Bella, The Oregonian

A former Portland wrestling promoter has been sentenced to eight years in prison for stealing more than $500,000 from a Clackamas company where he worked.

Frank Lloyd Culbertson Jr., 54, of Southeast Portland pleaded guilty last week to six counts of aggravated theft, stemming from his time working in the accounting department of Cornell Pump Co. Additional charges of theft, computer crimes and identity theft were dropped in a plea agreement struck by Clackamas County Deputy District Attorney Michael Y. Wu and defense attorney Arthur B. Knauss.

Circuit Judge Robert D. Herndon also ordered Culbertson to repay the company when all of Culbertson's thefts are tallied.

Meanwhile, Cornell Pump sued Culbertson in November, seeking $515,918 in damages related to Culbertson's thefts. The case remains pending.

Culbertson, a former television advertising salesman, bought the dormant Portland Wrestling franchise in 2002. His effort to revive the once-popular local wrestling matches ended in 2007, when he was arrested and prosecuted for embezzlement.

Culbertson subsequently was convicted in Multnomah County Circuit Court of first-degree aggravated theft for embezzling Broadway Cab, where he worked in the company's accounting unit. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail, five years' probation and was required to repay the cab company $48,000 in restitution.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Former Pizza Manager In California Arrested After 2 Year Investigation Alleging He Embezzled More Than $1.3 Million From Restaurant

From the Murrietta Patch on 4/19/13:

Robert Glenn Stiles

Pizza Manager Suspected of Embezzling $1.3M

By Maggie Avants
April 19, 2013

MURRIETA, CA -- The former manager of a popular Murrieta pizza restaurant has been charged with felony embezzlement following nearly two years of investigation, it was announced Friday.

Robert "Bob" Glenn Stiles, 61, was arrested Thursday at his residence in the 24700 block of 2nd Street in Murrieta on suspicion of embezzling more than $1.3 million from Bob's Murrieta Pizza Company, according to a news release issued Friday by police.

The investigation into Stiles' alleged theft from the restaurant at 41860 Kalmia Street, Suite 103, began in June 2011.

Stiles' role in the business was operations manager, as well as minority partner/investor, stated Murrieta police Lt. Tony Conrad.

"After a preliminary investigation, Murrieta police Detective Jeff Ullrich was assigned the case," Conrad stated. "Over the course of the next 18 months, numerous search warrants were served at several locations including business and personal bank accounts."

A forensic audit examining all financial records for Bob's Murrieta Pizza Company was conducted by Detective Ullrich and a certified public accountant.

"The audit revealed Mr. Stiles took out several unauthorized personal loans with business funds and also misappropriated a large sum of money in the form of cash and checks from the business. The total suspected embezzled amount reached more than $1.3 million," Conrad stated.

This month, Conrad stated Riverside County District Attorney's Office agreed to file felony embezzlement related charges against Stiles.

On Thursday, Murrieta police detectives took Stiles into custody without incident.

Stiles is being held in lieu of $1.39 million bail at Southwest Detention Center near Murrieta.

Arrest charges include four counts of forgery, four counts of using another person's identity to obtain credit, and six counts of grand theft with a sentencing-enhancing charge of allegedly taking more than $1 million in property.

The Investigation
According to an affidavit filed by Detective Ullrich, the alleged wrongdoing came to the attention of police in spring 2011 when a majority shareholder of Bob's Murrieta Pizza Company, Linda Everson, came to the front counter of the police department.

"...Everson told [an officer] that she and the other group of shareholders suspected Robert Stiles was taking money from the business over the last four years and applying for lines of credit without her or the other shareholders' knowledge," Ullrich wrote.

Everson and her husband put up $200,000 of their own money to open the business in 2007.
Stiles at that point had 12-percent ownership of Lazlo Fine Foods, the company that owned and operated Bob's. Stiles put up no cash, but had all the sports contacts in the valley, Everson told police.

Based on their suspicions, the shareholders—minus Stiles—met in April 2011 and took over all operations of Bob's.

In May 2011, Stiles was officially terminated as the manager of Bob's because of financial problems with the business, Ullrich wrote.

In the meantime, a forensic audit was conducted by a Murrieta accountant, which revealed much of the suspected wrongdoing.

Everson brought forth evidence that during the four years Stiles managed the restaurant, he had allegedly applied for loans with her signature, social security number and the company's tax identification number, amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The property was under notice of foreclosure because the monthly rent of $13,100 had not been paid and was at least three months delinquent, wrote Ullrich. Several eviction notices dated back as far as 2008 for the property.

It was also alleged that Stiles failed to make payments to the IRS and State Franchise Tax Board, and that he had failed to take employee deductions for unemployment since 2008. The company was also behind in payments to the State Board of Equalization.

In September 2012, in an effort to further prove their suspicions, the company hired a Nebraska firm to conduct another forensic audit.

According to Ullrich, the firm notified him in October 2012 that an estimated $1.2 million was missing from the restaurant's accounts; however, the firm stated only $640,000 could be proven as solid evidence that Stiles, without shareholders' authorization, had allegedly written checks or diverted company funds into his personal accounts or third-party accounts.

The Murrieta Police Department Detective Bureau then submitted a request to search the business records of Bank of America, 23781 Washington Ave., Murrieta, for all transactions related to Stiles and accounts registered in his name.

Bob's Murrieta Pizza Company was reorganized in 2011, when it became Maxx Pizza Co. It has since remained in operation at the Kalmia Street location.

Stiles is due in court Monday.

Friday, April 19, 2013

California Couple Arrested For Allegedly Embezzling More Than $173K From Youth Soccer Club

From the Sacramento Bee on 4/17/13:

April 17, 2013

Former treasurer, husband accused of embezzling from Roseville Youth Soccer
Heather Jo Sanford
Christopher Lawrence Sanford
The former treasurer of the Roseville Youth Soccer organization and her husband have been arrested on suspicion of embezzling more than $173,000 from the organization.

Carmichael residents Heather Jo Sanford (left photo) and Christopher Lawrence Sanford (right photo), both 40, were taken into custody today by Roseville police detectives. They are being held in Placer County Jail in lieu of $173,000 bail.

Roseville Youth Soccer officials notified police in November of their suspicions that their former treasurer, Heather Sanford, had stolen a substantial amount of money from the youth sports organization from 2011 to 2012, according to a Police Department news release.

An investigation by Roseville detectives developed probable cause to arrest Heather and Christopher Sanford. According to police, the investigation uncovered evidence that Heather Sanford had written checks on the organization's account to her husband, made cash withdrawals and used the organization's debit card to purchase items for their personal use.

Read more here: http://blogs.sacbee.com/crime/archives/2013/04/former-treasurer-husband-accused-of-embezzling-from-roseville-youth-soccer.html#storylink=cpy

Former School Assist. Superintendant In Michigan Sentenced For Embezzling $236K From School District

From the Oakland Press on 4/18/13:

Former Pontiac schools assistant superintendent sentenced for embezzlement

Former Pontiac schools assistant superintendent Jumanne Sledge, 42, has been sentenced to one year in prison, one year on home confinement and three years of supervised release in connection with charges of embezzling $236,000 from the district.

The sentence was handed down this week by U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood, who also required Sledge, of Bloomfield Hills, to make restitution for a portion of the amount he was charged with taking.

Sledge, of Bloomfield Hills, opted to make a plea deal shortly before his trial was to start last year. His sentencing had been postponed at least three times.

Had he been convicted on original charges, Sledge faced up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for program fraud. He also faced up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 if convicted of money laundering.

The former assistant to Superintendent Thomas Maridada III from 2009 through 2011 had oversight of both Pontiac district finances and human resources.

Sledge was indicted March 6, 2012 on charges of program fraud and money laundering by the U.S. Department of Justice in Detroit after an internal audit and an FBI investigation.

The former Pontiac school official is accused of directing a Pontiac district employee to write him a check in 2010 for $236,000, payable to “Leadership Academy,” which Sledge then deposited into a bank account he controlled.

Sledge was suspended at the end of 2011 pending an investigation of mismanagement of funds, including federal Title I funds, after the check was turned over to a grand jury and the FBI.

A few weeks later, the FBI seized Sledge’s 2002 Jaguar and a $34,000 bank account.

Jeff Downey, director of the F.B.I. office in Oakland County, said: “The investigation with Sledge is complete, but public corruption remains a top priority of the F.B.I. and we continue to follow up on any and all allegations of wrongdoing.”
Downey said he could not confirm or deny if the investigation of the district’s finances outside of Sledge is ongoing.

Former Interim Superintendent Walter Burt, who took over the top spot for a year during the time of the investigation, said of the outcome: “It was appalling to see his lack of integrity and also lack of being considerate of the school district and especially a school district that had huge financial challenges.

“What would compel a person to take money from a district for his own personal interest is beyond my imagination. I am happy justice has prevailed and I truly hope his sentence is commensurate with the damages he brought on the district,” Burt said.

Former Pontiac Board of Education Trustee Gill Garrett, who pushed for audits and investigation of finances while he was with the district, said he is happiest about the restitution.

“It is the kids’ money,” said Garrett, who has been in law enforcement for 14 years.

“I am hoping that he testifies against anyone who had any others who had done wrongdoing.

“From what we are facing in the school district, it goes a lot a deeper. It is not just Jumanne Sledge.

“There are a lot of good people in the school district day in and day out serving kids and to have someone come in and do something like this is sad,” Garrett said.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Michigan Woman Sentenced To 27 Months In Prison For Embezzling Nearly $1 Million From Bank

From Michigan Live on 4/17/13:

Ludington woman gets prison for nearly $1 million bank embezzlement
By John S. Hausman on April 17, 2013 at 4:45 PM, updated April 17, 2013 at 4:46 PM
GRAND RAPIDS, MI -- Stacy Lynn Ahlgren, a former employee of Northwestern Bank in Ludington, has been sentenced to federal prison for embezzling nearly $1 million from the bank over nearly six years.
U.S. District Judge Robert J. Jonker on Wednesday, April 17, ordered Ahlgren, 39, to prison for 27 months, followed by supervised release for three years. He also ordered Ahlgren to pay restitution of $873,589.76, the amount that is documented to have been stolen.

According to court documents, the prison sentence was at the low end of federal sentencing guidelines, which recommended a range of 27 to 33 months.

In a sentencing memorandum filed with the court last week, Ahlgren’s attorney, Larry C. Willey, asked for a sentence below the guidelines. Willey argued that Ahlgren had been influenced by a bad marriage with an abusive husband, whom she tried to make happy by financing his “lifestyle.”
The ex-husband, Garth Allen Kimbler, whom she divorced in 2012, is in state prison for weapons and vandalism convictions in connection with a November 2011 attack on his then-wife.

Willey’s memorandum said Stacy Ahlgren’s salary from the bank, where she worked as a senior customer service representative and had access to its vault, was $18,500 per year throughout the period of the embezzlement, 2006 through 2011.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert M. Stella responded that Ahlgren, then known as Stacy Lynn Kimbler, had many opportunities to “make the right choice” by stopping her criminal conduct but failed to do so.

Stella’s sentencing memorandum said she used most of the stolen money to support her husband’s alcohol, drug and gambling habits, as well her own gambling, which Stella said by her own admission accounted for more than $100,000 in spending during the embezzlement period. Stella said that, according to the record, her husband had no knowledge of her theft.

Ahlgren pleaded guilty Dec. 20 to embezzlement from an insured bank, a federal crime. According to Stella’s sentencing memo, $100,000 of the stolen money was paid by the bank itself, the rest by its insurer.

In her plea agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, Ahlgren admitted embezzling $873,589.76 from the bank from 2007 through 2011, with the amounts rising each year from $140,866.45 in 2007 to $188,591.52 in 2011.

According to the plea agreement, Ahlgren worked at two branch locations of Northwestern Bank in Ludington. By 2006 she was the senior customer service representative, giving her sole responsibility over the bank vault in the branch at 101 E. Court St.

According to the plea agreement, at least weekly she stole cash, cashier’s checks and money orders from her teller drawer in an area she knew was not caught on security cameras. She concealed the scheme by preparing false bank-vault audit sheets and by periodically falsifying the vault balance in the bank’s computer system.

According to Willey's sentencing memo, bank officials became suspicious in December 2011 and did an audit at the Ludington branch. During the audit Ahlgren admitted her embezzlement to a fellow employee, repeated it to bank officials and again repeated it to local police the same day, Willey said.

Indiana Man Charged With Embezzling Nearly $400K

From The Tippecanoe Gazette on 4/17/13:

Tipp Man Charged With Embezzlement

Written by Nancy Bowman
Wednesday, 17 April 2013
A Tipp City man was accused of embezzling thousands of dollars from his West Milton employer in criminal and civil cases filed Friday in Miami County courts.

Stephen T. Smith, 48, of Burnside Drive was arrested on felony charges of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, theft and telecommunications fraud for alleged embezzlement from Long & Associates Inc. of West Milton. Smith was an accountant at the business from 2006 through 2012, according to a report by Chief Garry Kimpel of the West Milton Police Department.

Smith was jailed, and then arraigned Monday in county Municipal Court. He was released on his own recognizance, and ordered to surrender his passport to the court.

West Milton police allege Smith between March 2010 and December 2012 made 220 fraudulent wire transfers and bank fraud transactions to obtain $349,629 from client accounts and stole an additional $40,000 cash for a total of $389,629.

The money allegedly was invested in a Troy business and to buy the Burnside Drive property. Kimpel wrote that Smith “with a business partner whose culpability is unknown at this time” established the Troy business.

Business records seized with search warrants will be reviewed and the amount of theft could be revised higher, Kimpel said.

The company’s lawyers also sued Smith Friday in a filing in Common Pleas Court.
Company officials stated in the civil complaint that Smith was responsible for the receipt, accounting and deposit of client money before he resigned Nov. 12. After the resignation, the company said it discovered “a widespread and ongoing embezzlement of corporate and client funds. “
The suit alleges Smith took a number of steps to hide his actions such as material misrepresentations and omissions regarding corporate and client accounting.”

Also named in the lawsuit is Robert T. Dixon, also of Burnside Drive, Tipp City. The suit claims “Long & Associates Inc. has reason to believe that (Dixon) had aided and abetted … Smith in the distribution and investment of embezzled funds.” Criminal charges have not been filed against Dixon.

In the lawsuit Smith is accused of breach of fiduciary duties, fraud, criminal acts, conversion of property and unjust enrichment. He also is accused along with Dixon of civil conspiracy, unjust enrichment and wanton conduct.

The lawsuit seeks a judgment of more than $25,000 along with an order for Dixon and Smith to submit a full accounting of all assets, liabilities, expenses and checking account ledgers for the past five years.

A restraining order also is sought preventing Smith and Dixon from transferring or concealing assets and a court order finding the men’s alleged actions constituted fraud.

Former Bank Exec In Nebraska Admits To Embezzling $1.365 Million

From The Sidney Sun-Telegraph on 4/3/13:

Monheiser admits to embezzling nearly $1.4M

LINCOLN — A former executive at a western Nebraska bank has pleaded guilty to stealing almost $1.4 million from the branch he ran.

Matthew Monheiser pleaded guilty in federal court Friday to stealing $1,364,953.66 from the former First National Bank in Sidney.

The 38-year-old says he has already repaid $500,000 to the bank and made arrangements to pay another $1 million in restitution.

Prosecutors say Monheiser took the money between 2003 and 2012. Most of the money was obtained by creating loans or issuing cashier’s checks in customers’ names, increasing existing loans or creating new loans in customer names.

Monheiser also took $82,000 in cash from the bank vault.

Monheiser is scheduled to be sentenced on June 24. Prosecutors agreed to recommend a sentence at the low end of the recommended range.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

South Dakota Man Indicted For Allegedly Embezzling Nearly $100K From Healthcare Concern

From Keloland.com on 4/16/13:

Former Medical X-Ray Employee Indicted For Bank Fraud

A former employee at Medical X-Ray in Sioux Falls has been federally indicted for bank fraud, embezzlement and money laundering.

Gerald Larson worked as the business manager for the now closed Medical X-Ray Center.

Now, Larson has been federally indicted for embezzling from the health care company.

Court documents say Larson started embezzling nearly a decade ago in April 2003.

The indictment says Larson deposited business checks into his own personal bank account. It also says that he transferred nearly $100,000 of the money out of his daughter's investment account to pay a construction company as recently as December.

The charges don't say exactly how much money was taken but Larson faces more than $2 million in fines and 80 years in prison.

Hat tip:  FraudTalk reader Joe.

Update (12/9/2014): Larson was sentenced to 3 years in prison.

Oklahoma Man Sentenced For Embezzling More Than $2.5 Million From Bank

From CPA Practice Advisor on 4/15/13:

Former home loan officer receives 27 month prison sentence for $2.5M fraud

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Attorney's Office have announced that Daniel A. Vivas of Oklahoma City has been sentenced to 27 months in prison for his role in a bank fraud conspiracy that caused more than $2.5 million in losses to various banks and mortgage lenders.

Vivas pled guilty on January 18, 2013, to conspiracy to commit bank fraud. According to court documents, in 2005 and 2006, Vivas was a loan officer for Home Savings & Trust Mortgage at its office in Fairfax, Virginia. As a loan officer, Vivas was responsible for originating loans—that is, generating business for Home Savings by marketing its residential loan products and by taking residential mortgage loan applications from borrowers who were seeking a loan.

As part of a scheme, Vivas and his co-conspirators submitted fraudulent tax preparer letters to support false statements in Vivas’s clients’ loan applications that falsely represented the borrowers’ employment, income, and/or assets. The tax preparer letters falsely claimed that a tax professional had prepared the borrower’s tax returns for the preceding two tax years, that the borrower was self-employed, and that the borrower owned his own business. He would also fill in the name of a fictitious business entity supposedly owned by the borrowers.

In most cases, Vivas and his co-conspirators gave these false statements and documents to the lenders without their clients’ knowledge. When the borrowers were unable to sustain the monthly payments on their loans, the consequence for many was foreclosure and eviction.

Vivas is the latest defendant to be sentenced in a series of prosecutions of the conspirators. Four tax professionals have also been found guilty, including Osvaldo A. Mercado, the owner of Union Hispana Multiservices, a large tax preparation service operating in Northern Virginia. On June 8, 2012, Mercado was sentenced to 24 months in prison.

This is an ongoing investigation being conducted by the FBI’s Washington Field Office, the FDIC Office of Inspector General, and ICE-HSI. Assistant United States Attorney James P. Gillis is prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.

Former Controller For California Apparel Company Sentenced To 9 Years For Embezzling $5.7 Million

From The San Diego Union-Tribune on 4/15/13:

Woman gets 9 years for $5.7M theft at work

By Teri Figueroa

— The one-time financial controller of a San Marcos company was sentenced Monday to nine years in prison for embezzling $5.7 million from the firm and leaving it in financial ruin.

Company owner Richard Sawyer, 74, said his Proformance Apparel Group, LLC, closed for good about 10 days ago and has filed for bankruptcy.

Proformance, which specialized in textile screen printing, had at one time employed more than 90 people.

Elizabeth Ann Masters, 45, siphoned the company’s money over about nine years, primarily by arranging to receive several extra paychecks each month, authorities said. The thefts started in 2003 — with her second paycheck.

She spent the money to care for her herd of about 100 horses at her Aguanga ranch in rural southwest Riverside County, Deputy District Attorney Anna Winn said.

Masters pleaded guilty last month to four felonies, including forgery and tax fraud, in exchange for a nine-year prison sentence. Under state law, she will be eligible for release in four and a half years.
Vista Superior Court Judge David Berry ordered Masters to pay $5.7 million in restitution to the company. He also ordered her to pay more than $650,000 to the Franchise Tax Board — money she owes after failing to claim her embezzled income on her tax returns.

Debbie Sawyer, Richard’s wife, spoke on behalf of the couple during the sentencing. She said Masters, who had been a guest at their daughter’s wedding, built a false sense of friendship with her.
“Ms. Masters didn’t just steal money. She stole our hearts and our souls,” Debbie Sawyer, 60, said.
She and her husband, who has cancer, drained all of their personal savings to keep the company afloat.

Masters’ salary was about $50,000 a year; she eventually began to take home more than $50,000 a month, according to court documents.

Masters took home more than $134,000 in her first year on the job in 2003, records show. Within five years, her take-home pay was upward of $700,000 a year. And by 2011, she topped out at more than $1.2 million.

The company fired her in late 2011 after an internal audit uncovered the duplicity.

Prosecutor Winn said that after Masters was fired, she briefly duped people into helping her pay the upkeep on her horses, telling donors she was suffering from late-stage cancer. Investigators found no evidence that Masters ever had cancer or any other life-threatening illness.

Masters later moved to Albuquerque — where she got a job working in accounting. In 2012, she was arrested there and extradited to San Diego County to face embezzlement charges.

A lawsuit allowed the company to seize Masters’ ranch, but it was worth only about $300,000, Richard Sawyer said.

Masters’ embezzlement case is the second largest such case in recent North County history.

The biggest embezzlement was by Annette Yeomans, a former finance executive. She stole nearly $10 million from her employer, Quality Woodworks, a San Marcos manufacturing company, between 2002 and 2007. She spent much of the money on trips, high-stakes gambling and high-end designer items, including 400 pairs of shoes.

Former Office Manager of Tennessee Restaurant Charged With Embezzling Nearly $140K

From the Kingsport Times-News on 4/15/13:

Samantha Miller

Former Pratt's employee charged with embezzling nearly $140,000
By Rain Smith
A former office manager at Pratt's BBQ in Kingsport has been charged with embezzling nearly $140,000 from the business, allegedly using the stolen funds to pay off credit card debt.

According to Kingsport police, a warrant was issued March 27 for the arrest of Samantha Miller, 45, of 401 Thomas Acres Road. She then turned herself into police and was charged with theft of more than $60,000.

KPD Det. Chris Tincher says Miller was employed by Pratt's, 1225 East Stone Drive, from 2003 through 2011. An affidavit in Kignsport court says that over that time Miller had "complete control over the company's account."

Miller reportedly resigned in October of 2011, but it wasn't until November of last year that Tom Pratt, the owner of the restaurant, reported the missing funds to police. Court records state his secretary discovered the unauthorized transfer of money from a business account to Chase E-Pay, an online service for the payment of credit card bills.

Subsequent investigation by detectives reportedly found "several" such unauthorized transactions, with the total amount coming to $138,275.81. The alleged embezzlement occurred between January of 2007 up through November of 2012, approximately a year after Miller's resignation.

Court records say the stolen money was used to pay a Chase E-Pay account in the name of Miller's husband. When interviewed by police she allegedly admitted to the embezzlement.

Miller's next court appearance is scheduled for May 30.

Former Bank Exec In North Dakota Sentenced For Embezzling Nearly $800K

From The Dickinson Press on 4/17/13:

Dickinson's Kolling sentenced to 3 years for bank fraud

BISMARCK — A former North Dakota bank executive convicted of bilking nearly $1 million from her clients was sentenced Friday to more than three years in prison.

A judge ordered Betty Kolling, 67, a former trust officer at Bank of the West in Dickinson, to serve 41 months on a charge of conspiring to commit bank fraud. Her attorney had asked for home confinement.

Investigators said Kolling stole nearly $800,000 from the trust accounts of five clients over seven years, although prosecutors said a pre-sentence investigation showed losses to be more than $1 million.

Kolling's husband, Walter, 66, who also pleaded guilty to bank fraud, was sentenced Friday to six months of home confinement.

A judge is expected to rule later on how much money the defendants will have to pay back in victims’ losses.

Defense attorneys in the case were not immediately available for comment.

Betty Kolling's lawyer, Irv Nodland, said in court documents that his client was manipulated by family members, especially her sister. Nodland said all the money went to the sister and Kolling didn't keep any of it.

Prosecutor Nick Chase said in a sentencing memorandum that the Kollings were driven purely by greed and a twisted belief as to what they were entitled.

Former Police Chief In Illinois Indicted For Allegedly Embezzling $138K From Municipality; Thefts Reportedly Fuel Gambling Habit

From the Belleville News-Democrat on 4/17/13:

Feds accuse former Edwardsville police chief of stealing $138,303 from city

Read more here: http://www.bnd.com/2013/04/17/2581076/former-edwardsville-police-chief.html#emlnl=News_Alerts#storylink=cpy

— News-Democrat

James S. Bedell on Wednesday morning pleaded guilty to four federal counts of embezzling from the city while he was Edwardsville's police chief.

The money was stolen from tow fees and used to support Bedell's gambling habit, prosecutors said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Norm Smith said the government believes the total loss for the city of Edwardsville from 2009-2012 was $138,303. Bedell is contesting that amount, so Smith said the amount could change.

Bedell, wearing a black suit, stood motionless and attentive besides his attorney John P. Rogers of St. Louis and listened to U.S. District Judge Michael J. Reagan lay out the government's charges against him. After determining that Bedell understood the charges, was satisfied with his defense and was competent, Reagan at 11:19 a.m. Wednesday accepted the former chief's guilty plea to four counts of embezzlement.

Bedell must repay Edwardsville and faces a sentence ranging from probation to as much as 10 years on each felony count.

"On your best day you could get probation. On your worst day you could get 40 years," Reagan told Bedell.

Bedell appeared embarrassed and stared straight ahead at Reagan. As he left the courtroom, he looked down and walked close to his attorney, carrying a small black umbrella and a brown hat. Neither he nor his attorney commented.

Bedell has no sentencing agreement with federal prosecutors in exchange for his plea. He was told to surrender his passport and ordered not to enter any gambling establishments.

Reagan told Bedell to cooperate fully with the probation office.

"If you lie to them, you lie to me. They work for me," Reagan said.

The facts as laid out by Bedell and the government state Bedell was police chief from 2007 through Oct. 5, 2012. He was taking the $300 per vehicle city fees collected from those whose vehicles were towed or impounded.

Individuals paid the $300 fee and were given a release form and receipt by a dispatcher. The dispatcher then put the money into the fee impound lock box in the dispatch center. Bedell had access to the key that opened the lock box and took cash and money orders that he used to support his gambling, the document stated.

Bedell unlawfuly removed cash and money orders from the lockbox and used it personally "generally to support a gambling habit," the document stated.

"I am disgusted and saddened when called upon to prosecute someone who had sworn to uphold the law. By far and away, most police officers are above reproach. They are the constant guardians of our very freedom. Unfortunately, individuals sometimes succumb to their greed, stealing from those they have vowed to protect and serve. In instances like that, I will not hesitate to bring full and thorough prosecutions," U.S. Attorney Stephen Wigginton said. "Police officers are held to a higher standard.

While most exceed that standard, day in and day out, often the few who do not get the most attention."

Edwardsville Mayor Gary Niebur said the plea confirms that Bedell "abused and betrayed" the public trust.

"We are both disheartened and outraged that a person in a trusted position would manipulate an internal administrative process for personal gain," Niebur said. "His actions were not only criminal but despicable."

Niebur also said the actions of one individual did not diminish the efforts of the rest of the Edwardsville Police Department.

As a convicted felon Bedell cannot possess a gun or work in law enforcement. He had no prior felonies.

Bedell resigned as Edwardsville's police chief on Oct. 5, the same day the FBI and Internal Revenue Service raided his home and office.

After Bedell's resignation, an interim chief served until the city appointed Major Jay Keeven of the Illinois State Police to lead the Edwardsville Police Department. A 27-year veteran officer, Keeven had been director of operations for the state police District 11.

Read more here: http://www.bnd.com/2013/04/17/2581076/former-edwardsville-police-chief.html#emlnl=News_Alerts#storylink=cpy

Former Treasurer Of West Virginia Non-Profit Festival Event Sentenced For Embezzling $300K - Money Reportedly Used To Finance Gambling Addiction

From the Charleston Daily Mail on 4/16/13:
Former Multifest treasurer sentenced to 21 months for embezzlement

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The former treasurer for Multifest will spend the next 21 months in federal prison after admitting to stealing more than $300,000 from the long running multi-cultural festival to fuel a gambling addiction and failing to report that money on her tax returns.

U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver sentenced Deborah S. Starks, 55, of Cross Lanes Tuesday.
"Ms. Starks failed to report more than half a million dollars of income on her taxes," U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said in a statement. "More than $300,000 of that unreported income was money she stole from Multifest.

"Stealing $300,000 from a small business or charity could easily put that organization out of business. That's why my office has focused on investigating and prosecuting cases like these, to protect small businesses and charities and send a clear message that stealing from them won't be tolerated."

Starks admitted in January that she filed a false tax return in connection with the embezzlement scheme, which drained a little more than $300,000 from the festival's accounts from 2005 to 2010. She was the festival's treasurer at the time.

She admitted to writing checks to herself and to other people, withdrawing cash and using ATMs to tap the Multifest accounts.

She admitted failing to report the embezzled funds in the joint federal tax returns she filed from 2005 to 2010.

Bill Murray, her attorney, told the court Tuesday during her sentencing hearing that Starks had been the sole breadwinner for her family "for some time."

He said she was the primary caregiver for a young grandchild and her husband, Steve Starks, the founder of Multifest and former board president, had suffered health issues.

Murray said his client had been receiving unemployment benefits since being terminated from her position at Blue Cross Blue Shield in December 2012. He told the judge that sending her to prison would put the family's finances in jeopardy.

She spoke about her dedication to the festival, which is held in August on the grounds of the Capitol Complex.
"I dedicated 23 years of my life to Multifest," Starks told U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver. "My husband created it. I worked hard ... I was a one-woman-show."

She said she made bad choices and didn't keep proper records for the organization but wished she had. Starks said she never intended to hurt the festival.

"I beg you, please, have mercy," she said as she stood before Copenhaver's bench.

The judge said he recognized that she wasn't without good qualities, noting that he had received two letters regarding her character before the sentencing, but he pointed out her history.

He said she had been convicted three times for passing worthless checks and in 16 other instances such charges were dismissed.

He also recognized that some of the money taken went to feed her gambling addiction.

Former Finance Director For California Municipal Mosquito Control Service Pleads No Contest To Embezzling $450K

From the San Francisco Chronicle on 4/16/13:

No contest plea in Peninsula embezzling

Henry K. Lee

Updated 4:28 pm, Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The former finance director of the San Mateo County Mosquito and Vector Control District pleaded no contest Tuesday to 10 felony embezzlement charges for her role in the theft of $450,000 from the agency.

Jo Ann Seeney, 62, entered pleas in San Mateo County Superior Court in Redwood City. She faces up to seven years in state prison when she is sentenced July 19.

"She's taken responsibility - she admits what she did," said her attorney, Geoff Carr.

Seeney and her assistant stole from the mosquito control district from 2009 to 2011 by giving themselves extra pay and bogus time off, said District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.

The two also padded their deferred compensation funds with excessive contributions, used the agency's credit cards for personal purchases and transferred county money into their accounts, Wagstaffe said.

The assistant, Vika Sinipata, 36, pleaded no contest in February to 12 felonies, including theft of government funds, embezzlement and destruction of public records. Sinipata faces up to eight years in prison when she is sentenced at a later date.

The embezzlement was uncovered in 2012 when a report showed that the district's agricultural account had been overspent by $150,000. A manager disputed the finding, prompting a member of the agency's board to ask for records.

The board member took her concerns to the county counsel's office, which led to an audit showing more discrepancies, authorities said.

When the district hired Seeney in February 2009, officials didn't know she had been arrested less than two years earlier for allegedly embezzling $568,000 from a former employer, Foster City medical supply company ConforMIS Inc. Later, prosecutors also charged her with stealing tens of thousands of dollars from another former employer, Woodside general contractor Mark de Bibo & Co.

Even as those cases were winding through the courts, Seeney continued to oversee the mosquito control district's finances. She went on leave in 2011 and, later that year, she pleaded guilty in connection with the earlier cases and served time in state prison.

"She came out of prison kind of changed," Carr said. "And the interesting thing is, she's not an addict or gambler. It was done to support her family after a bad divorce years ago."

Update 1/28/14:

Jo Ann Seeney, now 62, was sentenced to eight years in prison and her then-assistant, Vika Sinipata, now 37, received a 4 year sentence.

Virginia Woman Sentenced To Prison For Embezzling Nearly $200K; Was Bookkeeper For Businesses

From WTVR on 4/15/13:

Woman goes to prison for stealing from businesses

Posted on: 9:21 am, April 15, 2013, by Scott Wise

LOUISA COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) – A woman who stole nearly $200,000 from three businesses will spend a year and half in prison. Holly R. Bennett-Martinski, of Bumpass, pleaded guilty to five counts of embezzlement, according to Louisa County Commonwealth’s Attorney Rusty McGuire.

The judge sentenced Bennett-Martinski to 20 years in prison, but suspended 18 years and six months of that sentence.

McGuire said between 2008 and 2011 Bennett-Martinski kept the books for three businesses. When one of the businesses ordered an audit, it was determined Bennett-Martinski wrote $187,714 worth of checks to herself and her husband.

Bennett-Martinski resigned her position once the audit was ordered, McGuire said.

Columbia County, Georgia Investigating 2 Separate Embezzlements Approximately $200K Each

From the Columbia County News-Times on 4/15/13

One arrested, probe continues in massive embezzlement cases

Howard Lumber, Stratford cases near closure

By Barry L. Paschal
One person has been charged and another is still under investigation in a pair of Columbia County embezzlement cases that netted nearly half a million dollars.

Charles Holtzclaw, 26, of Martinez, turned himself in to the Columbia County Detention Center on Friday and was released after posting $25,000 bond, according to jail records.

Holtzclaw had been interviewed by investigators earlier in the week regarding thefts last fall from Howard Lumber Co. in Evans. He was allowed to turn himself in by the end of the week, said Columbia County Sheriff’s Capt. Steve Morris.

Charged under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, Holtzclaw worked as a salesman for Howard Lumber. He is accused of brokering deals for building materials and keeping the payments, then covering the thefts by charging the materials to other accounts, Morris said.

“It’s over $200,000,” he said.

Holtzclaw was “pocketing money received from customers for materials purchased from the business. He would create a fictitious work order, then bill the cost of the material to another customer’s credit account to cover up the money he took,” according to an incident report.

“Howard is out the materials and the money for those materials,” Morris said. “I haven’t heard of any restitution” being made.

Meanwhile, Columbia County authorities continue to investigate the theft of an estimated $192,000 during the past five years from the Stratford Property Owners Association.

The former treasurer of the group is a suspect and “continues to cooperate” in the probe, which involves sorting out thefts from legitimate payments made on behalf of the homeowners group, Morris said.

Charges could be made in the next month or so, he speculated.

South Carolina Couple Sentenced For Embezzling Nearly $600K; Thefts Fueled Lavish Lifestlye

From the Greer-Taylors Patch on 4/15/13:

Greer Couple Sentenced on Embezzlement, Fraud Charges
Feds had charged James and Julie Tucker with using embezzled funds to fuel lavish lifestyle, and for failure to pay taxes.
ByHal Millard
A Greer couple has been sentenced in federal court on charges they embezzled from a Greenville business and used the money to fuel a lavish lifestyle.

James "Dean" Tucker, 54, and Julie Greene Tucker, 52, of Greer, pleaded guilty in November 2012, to two counts of filing false tax returns. Julie Tucker also pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, said U.S. Attorney Anne M. Tompkins.

Julie Tucker was sentenced last week to 33 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. Meanwhile, Dean Tucker was sentenced to eight months of house arrest and five years of probation.

“For approximately 15 months the Tuckers used stolen money to fund a luxurious lifestyle way above their means,” Tompkins said in a news release.

Court documents showed Julie Tucker embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars from her Greenville employer, Trendset, Inc., with her and her husband using the money for such extravagances as country club memberships, jewelry, homes, vacations, and luxury vehicles.

The couple also failed to report taxable income derived from the embezzlement on their 2010 and 2011 tax returns, court records showed.

Dean Tucker, who worked for Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the time of the crimes, lied to ICE co-workers who questioned his newfound wealth. Tucker sometimes said the couple got the money from his father after a profitable stock sale. "Other times, he would say his wife had received a big promotion at Trendset and that she was making a lot more money than he was," said a WYFF report.

In addition to their sentences, the Tuckers were also ordered to pay $191,049 restitution to IRS. Julie Tucker was ordered to pay an additional $590,128 as restitution to her former employer.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Michigan Man Accused Of Embezzling Nearly $224K In Cash & Merchandise At Jewelry Concern

From Gannett:

Garden City man charged with embezzlement
Written by LeAnne Rogers Staff Writer; Apr 14, 2013
A Garden City man is facing a charge that he embezzled more than $100,000 while working as the manager at a Westland jewelry store.

Kenneth Carl Murray, 42, waived his preliminary examination Thursday in Westland's 18th District Court. He was ordered bound over for trial on the felony charge of embezzling more $100,000 from Kay Jewelers, where he had been employed as manager of the store in Westland Shopping Center. A not guilty plea was entered for Murray.

State statute sets dollar amounts in embezzlement charges — in this case, an amount more than $100,000. Information provided to Westland police sets the dollar amount at significantly higher than the $100,000 threshold.

“Kay Jewelers did an internal investigation. They set the total loss of cash and merchandise at $223,702.83,” Westland Police Sgt. Norm Brooks said.

The charge is that money was stolen from the store through fraudulent returns and unauthorized charges to customers' Kay Jewelers credit cards.

“If someone bought a $3,000 item, he'd do a return and take the money. No item was returned,” Brooks said. “He is also accused of taking merchandise. The jewelry was sold or pawned.”
No merchandise or money have been recovered, Brooks said.

The embezzlement took place from September 2012 until Murray was terminated by the store in December, Brooks said. It was not known how long he had worked for the jewelry chain.

Murray is free on $10,000/10-percent bond. His circuit court arraignment is set for April 25.

Indiana Woman Reportedly Set To Plead Guilty To Charges She Embezzled $300K From Bank Customer Accounts

From the Greensburg Daily News:

April 12, 2013

Bank employee accused of embezzlement readies guilty plea

Greensburg — A former customer service manager for Greensburg’s Fifth Third bank notified authorities of her intent to enter a guilty plea on federal embezzlement charges earlier this week.

Michelle Wagner, 41, was investigated by federal agents who claim she stole more than $300,000 from a pair of senior citizens’ accounts while working as a customer service manager at Fifth Third. In total, investigators believe Wagner pocketed $344,918.08 over the course of 18 months.

U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana Joe Hogsett told the Daily News Friday that Wagner and her attorney have formally notified the federal court system of their intent to enter a guilty plea. That plea, if entered and accepted by the court, will eventually be followed by a sentencing hearing. Hogsett said Wagner could face a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison time, in addition to “significant fines” and a period of supervision following her release. Wagner has no prior criminal history, he said, and the suspect’s choice to avoid a trial could potentially reduce her sentence. But that’s up to the judge, he said.

One unavoidable outcome of the case will be Wagner’s requirement to repay every cent she is alleged to have stolen.

Hogsett said he could not comment on (and didn’t have access to) a list of items purchased by Wagner using the embezzled funds.

“That information will be revealed at the sentencing,” Hogsett said. The items purchased were described as being “for her (Wagner’s) personal use.”

Hogsett said items bought by Wagner using the victims’ funds would be sold, and the proceeds of those items would be returned to the Fifth Third customers as restitution.

The U.S. attorney complimented the efforts of Federal Investigators as well as Fifth Third’s own investigative team whose assistance Hogsett described as “extraordinarily cooperative and helpful.”

Wagner’s work as a customer service manager gave her complete access to her client’s accounts. Part of her duties, Hogsett said, included assisting the two victims with writing checks, paying monthly bills and other expenses, transferring funds, and maintaining their accounts in general. The multiple unauthorized transactions are alleged to have occurred over a period of time spanning from July 2010 until early December 2011.

Hogsett said his office is determined to send the message that they “take very seriously those who abuse the public trust.”

Wagner’s alleged actions took many by surprise, as Hogsett said neither Fifth Third nor the customer service manager’s clients had reason to believe the suspect was anything less than honest.

Southern California Man Extradited From The Phillipines To Face Charges He Embezzled $656K From Construction Concern

From The Desert Sun:

Michael William Barnett
Former Rancho Mirage man accused of embezzlement
A former Rancho Mirage man, arrested last month in the Philippines, is scheduled to face embezzlement charges next week in Riverside County Superior Court.
Michael William Barnett, 52, is accused of embezzling $656,000 from a construction company he co-founded in 2004, according to the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office.
Federal authorities arrested him in March and brought him to Los Angeles where members of the U.S. Marshal’s Pacific Regional Fugitive Task Force took him into custody on Thursday.
He is being detained at the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside.
Michael Barnett and his partner formed Brandon Construction in 2004, but it went out of business in July 2006.
An investigation was launched shortly after the company went out of business when the partner learned he had no access to its bank records.
According to the district attorney’s office, Barnett and his wife, Bettina Barnett, used 24 bank accounts with six financial institutions to hide customer payments over a 21-month period.
Barnett’s wife was hired as a bookkeeper and all profits were supposed to be split evenly between Michael Barnett and his business partner.
Bettina Barnett pleaded guilty in April 2012 to one felony count of embezzlement and was sentenced to 180 days in jail and five years probation, according to the district attorney’s office.
Michael Barnett is set to appear in court at the Larson Justice Center in Indio on Tuesday.