Former Bookkeeper Pleads Guilty in $1.3 Million Embezzlement
Victim was Small Landscaping Company
|U.S. Attorney’s Office November 02, 2011|
WASHINGTON—Christopher F. Cunningham, 44, a former bookkeeper and office manager, pled guilty today to a federal charge stemming from the embezzlement of $1.3 million from a small landscaping company, announced U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. and James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.
Cunningham, most recently of Spain, pled guilty to the lead count in a recently unsealed indictment, interstate transportation of money taken by fraud. He appeared before the Honorable Royce C. Lamberth, Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
The defendant is to be sentenced January 13, 2012. He faces a probable sentence under federal sentencing guidelines of 37 to 46 months of incarceration, restitution in the amount of approximately $961,000, a fine, and other conditions. Federal agents applied for warrants to seize stolen funds, or their equivalent, from bank accounts. So far, they have seized about $338,000, which has been returned to the victim.
According to the indictment and a statement of offense, which was signed by the defendant, Cunningham worked for a small landscaping company from 2004 until December 2009 as the de facto “office manager.” To achieve his embezzlement, Cunningham would input information into the company’s computerized bookkeeping systems as if to pay legitimate vendors. Instead of generating checks to pay these legitimate vendors, however, Cunningham would generate checks in his own name or that of one of his own creditors. These checks would contain the forged signature of the owner of the landscaping company.
Cunningham also inputted payroll information into the victim’s computerized bookkeeping systems in the names of other employees, causing the victim and those named employees to pay taxes on the wages purportedly given to them. Instead of generating these checks to the employees, however, Cunningham generated checks in his own name and took the money for himself.
In addition, Cunningham allegedly redirected checks, which should have been deposited into the victim’s accounts, as the checks were made payable to the landscaper, into his own bank accounts. Finally, Cunningham is accused of engaging in online banking that caused the victim’s banks to send checks to himself at his home address and to pay his other debts.
In order to hide his scheme, Cunningham altered the company’s bank statements to disguise the fact that he wrote checks to himself and wrote checks to others to pay for his own debts.
Cunningham is being held without bond pending sentencing.
In announcing the plea, U.S. Attorney Machen and Assistant Director in Charge McJunkin commended the work of special agents with the FBI’s Washington Field Office. They also cited the efforts of the staff of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Paralegal Specialists Diane Hayes and Sarah Reis, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys in the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, as well as Assistant U.S. Attorney Virginia Cheatham, who is prosecuting the case.