FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 28, 2011
NEWARK, N.J. – A former employee of a New Jersey-based payroll company today admitted to defrauding her former employer by improperly diverting funds, after taking nearly $400,000 from the company, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Jahri Meriwether, 33, of Riverdale, Ga., pleaded guilty to an Information charging her with one count of mail fraud. She entered her guilty plea before U.S. District Judge William H. Walls in Newark federal court.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Meriwether admitted that between July 2007 and November 2010, she embezzled from her former employer, referred to in court documents as “Payroll Co.,” by wrongfully diverting checks belonging to the company. The payroll company’s services included helping other companies comply with the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (“COBRA”) concerning health care coverage for their former employees. The company would collect funds from former employees and direct them to health care insurers.
Checks which were undeliverable for some reason were held in the COBRA account for approximately six months, after which time they would be remitted by the payroll company to the appropriate state government based on the relevant former employee’s last known address.
Meriwether, who had access to the company’s computer systems in order to perform her duties at the company’s Alpharetta, Ga., office, used that access to reissue held checks to various people who had no right to them, with whom she then split the proceeds. She admitted to concealing her activity by changing the company’s internal computer records.
In all, Meriwether embezzled at least $397,000.
The count to which Meriwether pleaded guilty carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. She will also be ordered to pay restitution at sentencing, currently scheduled for October 4, 2011.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward in Newark, for their work in the investigation of this case.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Leven of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Health Care and Government Fraud Unit in Newark.
Defense counsel: Elizabeth, H. Smith Esq., Mendham, N.J.