News and Press Releases

West plains woman sentenced for stealing $760,000 from employer, false tax return

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 15, 2010

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a West Plains, Mo., woman was sentenced in federal court today for a scheme to embezzle more than $760,000 from her former employer.

Mary Elizabeth Hurtt, 58, of West Plains, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple to three years and 10 months in federal prison without parole. The court also ordered Hurtt to pay $760,504 in restitution. The court made it a condition of Hurtt’s bond to sell her property and other assets before she reports to begin serving her sentence on Nov. 29, 2010, in order to provide restitution to her victims.

On April 19, 2010, Hurtt pleaded guilty to uttering a forged security and filing a false tax return. Hurtt was sentenced to the statutory maximum penalty of 36 months for filing a false tax return and a concurrent sentence of 46 months, the maximum penalty recommended under the federal sentencing guidelines, for uttering a forged security.

Hurtt was employed as a bookkeeper at White Electrical Services, Inc., from 1999 to June 5, 2007. White Electrical Services, founded as a family business in 1970 and incorporated in 1998, installed commercial security systems around the United States. As a result of these crimes, White Electrical Services was closed on Jan. 1, 2008, and its assets were sold to another business.

Between January 2000 and May 2007, Hurtt embezzled $760,504 from White Electrical Services’ bank accounts. As part of the fraud scheme, Hurtt fraudulently endorsed and received payment on checks that were drawn on White Electrical Services. Hurtt forged the signatures of authorized persons and made withdrawals from the business bank account to purchase money orders for her personal use. Many of the checks she embezzled were intended to make the company’s quarterly tax payment to the Internal Revenue Service. Hurtt thus caused false Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Returns to be filed, resulting in an underpayment of $305,750.

Hurtt did not tell her CPA about the additional income she embezzled, and therefore the embezzled income was not reported on her tax returns, causing them to be false. Hurtt admitted that the additional tax she owed as a result totals $181,060.

This case was prosecuted by Supervisory Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael S. Oliver. It was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, IRS-Criminal Investigation and the West Plains, Mo., Police Department.

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