Kimberly Jean Palmer Pleads Guilty in U.S. Federal Cour
The United States Attorney's Office announced that during a federal court session in Billings on February 4, 2010, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah C. Lynch, KIMBERLY JEAN PALMER, a 50-year-old resident of Gresham, Oregon, formerly of Helena, pled guilty to wire fraud and bank fraud. Sentencing is set for May 6, 2010. She is currently released on special conditions.
In an Offer of Proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Carl E. Rostad, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:
PALMER, then known as Kimberly Deford, was employed as the Office Manager at Valley Metal Buildings in Helena from January 2006 through February 2009. During PALMER's tenure at Valley Metal Buildings, she was responsible for bookkeeping, purchasing, inventory, and handling all accounts payable, accounts receivable, and payroll.
On February 7, 2009, the daughter of the owner of Valley Metal Buildings identified ripped up credit card receipts in one of the office's waste baskets. Also found in the garbage were a number of ripped check stubs and credit card statements. Some of the credit card statements had been cut and pasted together to other statements to cover up what appeared to be personal related charges. The Valley Metal Buildings owner subsequently reviewed some of the credit card statements and noted numerous unauthorized charges on them.
On February 9, 2009, the owner confronted PALMER, at which time she admitted to stealing around $50,000 from Valley Metal Buildings. During the conversation, PALMER told the owner that "this is going to ruin my life."
In interviews with law enforcement, PALMER admitted to using several business credit cards to make personal charges. PALMER used a Capitol One card (Valley Metal Buildings credit card in PALMER's name); an Edward Jones card (Valley Metal Buildings credit card in PALMER's name); a Capital One card (Valley Metal Buildings credit card in prior employee's name); a Lowe's card (Valley Metal Buildings credit card); an HSBC card (PALMER's personal credit card - used Valley Metal Buildings monies to pay for charges); and a Capital One card (PALMER's personal credit card - used Valley Metal Buildings monies to pay for charges).
PALMER admitted using the embezzled funds to pay for her granddaughter's day care expenses, power bill for her son, QVC charges, Home Shopping Network charges, Bresnan bills, Amazon charges, and miscellaneous online pet supplies and other online shopping outlets
With regard to the Lowe's credit card, PALMER admitted that during 2008, she used the credit card to purchase flooring for her residence. PALMER advised that she paid the above credit cards online via the internet by transferring money from Valley Metal Buildings's bank account at Valley Bank.
In a February 2009 interview with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Helena Police Department, PALMER initially advised that she was not authorized to use the Valley Metal Buildings credit cards to make personal purchases but later maintained that the owner of Valley Metal Buildings told her she could make personal purchases as long as she paid the account using her own money. PALMER admitted that she rarely paid for the personal items she purchased and utilized a couple of schemes in an attempt to hide her personal charges from the accountant. PALMER explained that for the Valley Metal Buildings Edward Jones credit card, she used a cut and paste method to cover the personal charges on the monthly statements. PALMER explained that she would cut out legitimate Valley Metal Buildings business expenses and then paste them over the personal charges that were reflected on the monthly statements. With regard to the Valley Metal Buildings Capital One credit cards, PALMER advised that she would copy the online monthly statements into a Word document and then replace her personal charges with what would appear to be legitimate Valley Metal Buildings charges.
PALMER advised that Valley Metal Buildings banked at Valley Bank and that as part of the bill paying process, the owner would sign his name to blank checks so that PALMER could later pay Valley Metal Buildings bills. PALMER admitted that she made 5 to 10 checks payable to herself which she deposited into one of her accounts at Wells Fargo and hid their true nature in Valley Metal Buildings's accounting records. PALMER accomplished this by mis-coding the expense classification and inputting a different payee. PALMER recalled inputting one of the checks as payable to R&R Diesel and coding it as hauling. PALMER advised that she engaged in the above scheme to hide her thefts from the accountant. Finally, PALMER also admitted to diverting Valley Metal Buildings funds to pay personal expenses.
A private audit of the books and records of Valley Metal Buildings revealed that for the period January 2007 thru April 2009, the audit identified numerous schemes and devices used by PALMER that resulted in actual and attempted losses to Valley Metal Buildings totaling over $157,000. There was a cursory review of 2006 which also showed fraudulent transactions but that was not within the actual audit period. For example, PALMER utilized business credit card accounts to make personal purchases. PALMER was identified as an authorized user on the accounts. PALMER used the accounts to make personal purchases and then hid the true nature of the charges with entries that had the appearance of legitimate Valley Metal Buildings business activity.
PALMER also paid for purchases on her own HSBC and Capital One credit cards via online payments using the transfer of funds from Valley Metal Buildings' bank account to HSBC and/or Capital One.
In another aspect of the larger embezzlement scheme, PALMER made numerous pre-signed checks payable to herself and then hid the true payee of the check by recording a randomly chosen vendor's name in Valley Metal Buildings's books and records.
PALMER faces possible penalties of 30 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and 5 years supervised release.
The investigation was a cooperative effort between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Helena Police Department.
A copy of the Offer of Proof can be obtained by contacting Sally Frank at (406) 247-4638.