When hiring a bookkeeper or other position that deals with finances, trust is key. Unfortunately, many of those who deal with money take advantage of their employers. They take money for personal use—often a little here and there—and it slowly adds up. The employer does not catch it until it is too late.
This was what happened in Maryland. A woman who worked as a bookkeeper for her employer for 17 years recently pled guilty to fraud and identity theft after stealing nearly $1 million. The 48-year-old woman from Hampstead worked for The Cirelli Company, a family business in Severna Park. In her job, she was in charge of paying bills and invoices.
As part of her scheme, which lasted from 2001 until 2018, the woman used company checks for her own personal use. She would pay property tax bills and credit card bills. She also created fake bank statements and forged signatures.
In 2018, the owner’s son and daughter became aware of multiple discrepancies on their company American Express card and confronted the woman. The woman confessed to her crimes immediately, saying “I did it. I’m guilty.”
The woman pled guilty to mail fraud and aggravated identity theft. If she receives a sentence for mail fraud, which could be up to 20 years but will likely be much lower, she must serve that first. She can then serve the sentence for aggravated identity theft, which carries a minimum two-year sentence.
The woman’s punishment will depend on the amount of money stolen. Her lawyer and the prosecutor haggled over the details in court. Prosecutors estimate that the woman stole close to $990,000, while the woman’s lawyer figured it was closer to $550,000. A full accounting will determine the exact amount.
The woman in this case was charged with mail fraud, but what exactly does this crime entail? First, it helps to understand what fraud is. It involves taking money or other items under false pretenses, or illegally. It could also entail selling or distributing counterfeit money or items.
Mail fraud then occurs when the fraud involves mailing an item. For example, mailing a fake check or counterfeit item would be mail fraud. Mail fraud is a federal charge that is very common. However, the punishment is quite serious, resulting in up to 20 years in prison.
Two famous mail fraud convictions were those of Charles Ponzi, and more recently, Bernie Madoff. Both engaged in Ponzi schemes, also known as pyramid schemes, that swindled people of money. These unsuspecting victims lost billions of dollars.
Fraud can be charged at the state or federal level. Even though fraud does not typically involve physical violence, it is still considered a serious crime. A person can face decades in prison for such a crime.
A Columbia white collar crime attorney at the Law Offices of Todd K. Mohink, P.A. can give you the aggressive legal representation you need. He can provide you with a solid defense. To schedule a free consultation, fill out the online form or call (410) 774-5987.
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