News and Press Releases

Erie-area Woman Sentenced to 51 Months in Prison for Stealing $1.1 Million

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 10, 2013

ERIE, Pa. - A resident of St. Marys, Pennsylvania, has been sentenced in federal court to 51 months in jail on her conviction of mail fraud and tax evasion and ordered to pay $1,106,403.78 in restitution to Abbott Furnace Company and $428,595.84 to the Internal Revenue Service, United States Attorney David J. Hickton announced today.

Chief United States District Judge Sean J. McLaughlin imposed the sentence on Sandra Ann Prechtel, 51.

According to information presented to the court, Prechtel was an employee of the Abbott Furnace Company who from the period between 2002 and April 2007, engaged in a scheme and artifice to defraud the company and embezzled and spent more than $1,106,403.78 of company money. The Court was further advised that Prechtel engaged in the fraud and stole the money from the company by engaging in a variety of schemes. Prechtel prepared bi-weekly payroll reports reflecting the deductions and pay of employees of the company, but direct deposited or wrote thousands of dollars in additional payroll checks to herself that were not reflected on the company payroll reports; she managed the payroll deductions that would be credited to employee credit union savings accounts and inflated the amount of company funds to be deposited into her own credit union account without regularly deducting those amounts from her pay; she utilized company funds to pay off more than $570,000.00 in personal credit card balances for her personal expenditures; she prepared false W-2 wage forms for herself, understating her income from the company; she manipulated the company's bank and checking account records; and finally, Prechtel concealed these transactions by not properly documenting, or by altering, the company's books, records and accounting system. Also in connection with the guilty plea, the court was further advised Prechtel willfully evaded the payment of income taxes by failing to report as income the money she stole from Abbott Furnace for calendar years 2004, 2005 and 2006. According to information presented at the sentencing hearing, examples of Prechtel's spending of the company money included a $15,500.00 purchase a 2004 Cherokee recreational vehicle, a Harley Davidson motorcycle with custom paint job, a vacuum cleaner for approximately $1,400.00, and multiple trips to Disney World.

Prior to imposing sentence, Judge McLaughlin commented on the impact Prechtel's crime had on Abbott Furnace and its employees, and stated that the sentence imposed reflected the seriousness of her stealing from a company that trusted her and treated her as a friend and member of the Abbott Furnace family. Judge McLaughlin commented further that Prechtel's deception and commission of the offense over so many years became her method of operation and means of livelihood. Judge McLaughlin rejected Prechtel's claim that her health and family responsibilities warranted a sentence reduction. Further, Judge McLaughlin commented that Prechtel's claim that she supposedly used some of the money to buy things for her family rather than for herself was also not a basis for a reduced sentence.

Assistant United States Attorney Marshall J. Piccinini prosecuted this case on behalf of the government.

U.S. Attorney Hickton commended the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for the investigation leading to the successful prosecution of Prechtel.

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