News and Press Releases

st. joseph woman sentenced for $1 million fraud scheme

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 22, 2014

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a St. Joseph, Mo., woman was sentenced in federal court today for a wire fraud scheme in which she stole nearly $1 million from two companies in which she was a part owner.

Vicky Diane McDonell, 63, of St. Joseph, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Gary A. Fenner to five years in federal prison without parole. The court also ordered McDonell to pay $940,410 in restitution to Max Pro Consultants, Inc., and MPC Billboards, Inc. This restitution encompasses both the $906,415 she stole from the companies as well as legal fees paid by the victims in a civil suit against McDonell in an attempt to recover the money she stole. The victims dropped the suit before they recouped any of their losses because they could no longer afford to pursue it.

On Oct. 18, 2013, McDonell pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud for using a business credit card to pay $201 in personal expenses at The Elms Resort & Spa in Excelsior Springs, Mo. According to court documents, McDonell’s fraud scheme lasted for nearly 12 years, from June 13, 1997, to March 15, 2009. During that time, she committed more than 2,440 acts of theft – including an act of theft every single week – and stole a total of $906,415 from Max Pro and MPC Billboards.

Max Pro is a real estate company that manages properties upon which billboards are affixed. In 1997, MPC Billboards was formed and incorporated as a sister company to Max Pro. MPC is a billboard sales company. In addition to her duties as office manager, in 1999 McDonell was granted a 10 percent interest in both companies, making her a partner. McDonell also became treasurer of both companies, which included management of the companies’ day-to-day financial matters.

According to court documents, McDonell involved her children in her crimes. McDonell embezzled by paying thousands of dollars from company accounts to her son and teenage daughter for unauthorized work; she never filed 1099s for this supposed employment. McDonell also gave her daughter a company credit card and allowed her to charge to it. McDonell also used her mother in her fraud scheme. McDonell wrote a $5,000 business check to her mother for “contract cleaning,” despite the fact that her mother never cleaned and never received any money from MPC or Max Pro.

When the partners first discovered McDonell’s embezzlement, court documents say, they allowed her to continue her employment on her promise that she would stop embezzling. However, after her victims showed her this mercy on Feb. 10, 2009, McDonell continued to embezzle at a steady clip, charging hundreds of dollars for personal meals at bars and restaurants to company credit cards.

Court documents report on McDonell’s conduct after being caught. McDonell continued to steal from the victims. After her employment was terminated, McDonell took her company car, obtained a loan against the company car, traded in the company car for a personal vehicle, and wrote a company check for a payment on her personal vehicle. McDonell also violated the victims’ privacy rights by hiding a voice-activated digital recorder in the victims’ office to listen to private conversations of the victims, in violation of federal law.

McDonell sabotaged the victims’ business records, according to court documents. In addition to making thousands of false entries in the companies’ books, McDonell stole more than four years of bank records and retained nearly all the check registers from her tenure, making the full extent of her theft nearly impossible to ascertain. McDonell also sabotaged the victims’ computer records. McDonell enlisted her son to erase records and password-protect them, making them inaccessible to the victims. To this day, the companies’ partners are unable to access many of their corporate records due to McDonell’s actions.

The court found that McDonell obstructed the investigation by providing investigators with false statements about the scope of her embezzlement. McDonell also erased data off the computers at the businesses she defrauded. McDonell’s sentence therefore includes an enhancement for obstruction of justice.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Roseann A. Ketchmark. It was investigated by the FBI.

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