News and Press Releases

Former Baierl Acura Controller Admits Embezzling $10.2 Million

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 10, 2012

PITTSBURGH, Pa. - The former controller of the Baierl Acura dealership pleaded guilty in federal court to a charge of wire fraud, United States Attorney David J. Hickton announced today.

Patricia K. Smith, 57, of Cranberry Township, Penn., waived prosecution by indictment and entered a plea of guilty to a one-count information charging wire fraud before Senior United States District Judge Gustave Diamond.

In connection with the guilty plea, the court was advised that from December 2004 until July 28, 2011, Smith embezzled more than $10 million from her employer, Baierl Acura of Wexford.  Smith used her position as Controller to effect ACH transfers of large amounts of money from Baierl bank accounts to her own personal bank accounts on over 800 occasions. Smith then used the money to make extravagant purchases for herself, her family and her friends.  According to information presented to the court, among the items Smith purchased were $1.8 million billed to American Express for private jet charters; travel to seven countries in Europe and four islands in the Caribbean; $44,500 for four club level tickets along with full hospitality at Super Bowl XLV; $32,500 for a luncheon for six people prepared by Food Network star Ina Garten at her barn in East Hampton, NY; $5,000 for "The Vatican Package,"which included Mass in Papal Audience with VIP seating, airfare for four, VIP tour of the Vatican Museum with a private tour guide, and a private tour of the Sistine Chapel with family before it is open to the public; and $2,500 for a Phantom of the Opera experience, including costume fitting, wig fitting, an escort on-stage during the Hannibal Opera sequence, and four seats for the performance.

As part of this case, the government is seeking the forfeiture of numerous items including: four residences - three in Pennsylvania and one in Georgia; 10 vehicles, including three Acuras, four Hondas, and a Mustang convertible; stocks; jewelry; cash; gold coins; and personal property, including flat screen televisions, a mink coat and a baby grand piano.

"This is an unfortunate case of an extraordinary fraud perpetrated on a well-respected local business," stated U.S. Attorney Hickton. "The only explanation appears to be simple greed."

Judge Diamond scheduled sentencing for May 9, 2012, at 10 a.m.  The law provides for a total sentence of 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000, or both.  Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offense and the criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

Assistant United States Attorneys Stephen R. Kaufman and Lee J. Karl are prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted the investigation that led to the prosecution of Patricia K. Smith.

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