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Friday, October 14, 2011

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Former Bookkeeper Indicted on Federal Charges
In $1.3 Million Embezzlement
- Victim Was Small Landscaping Company -

     WASHINGTON - Christopher F. Cunningham, 44, a former bookkeeper, has been indicted on federal charges 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.

     The indictment against Cunningham, who most recently resided in Spain, was unsealed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Cunningham was indicted in March 2010, but had fled to Spain, where he remained until he turned himself in to Spanish authorities.

     The indictment charges Cunningham with interstate transportation of money taken by fraud, monetary transactions, forged securities, and a D.C. Code violation of fraud. It includes a forfeiture allegation seeking proceeds from the crimes. Federal agents applied for warrants to seize stolen funds, or their equivalent, from bank accounts. So far, they have seized about $338,000.

     Under federal sentencing guidelines, Cunningham faces a potential sentence of 51 to 63 months if he is convicted of the charges.

     According to the indictment, 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 company 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.

     The indictment also alleges that Cunningham 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.

     The indictment states that, 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 pled not guilty to the charges today and remains held pending a detention hearing scheduled for October 19, 2011.

     An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of criminal laws and every defendant is presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty.

     In announcing the indictment, U.S. Attorney Machen and Assistant Director in Charge McJunkin commended the work of those who investigated the matter for the FBI’s Washington Field Office, including Special Agents and Forensic Accountants. 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.



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