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Oct. 5, 2009


(HOUSTON) - A Salvadorian national and Katy, Texas, resident has been indicted for stealing paychecks and 401(k) plan money, United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced today. Maria Teresa Cardenas, 46, was arrested by Harris County Sheriff’s deputies on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2009, while responding to a domestic disturbance call.

An investigation conducted by the Department of Labor - Office of Inspector General and FBI lead to the return of a 15-count indictment on July 1, 2009, and the issuance of a warrant for Cardenas’ arrest. Cardenas is charged with multiple counts of wire fraud, embezzlement from an employee benefit plan and identity theft. Cardenas, a native of El Salvador legally residing in the United States, is expected to make an initial appearance in federal court before United States Magistrate Judge Calvin Botley at 2:00 p.m. this afternoon. 

The indictment alleges that during a two-year period beginning in 2004, while employed as a payroll administrator for a Houston recycling company, Cardenas caused the company to issue paychecks to a former employee with a name similar to her own and then deposited the paychecks into her own personal bank account. She is also accused of causing employee benefit plan management company to issue checks drawn on the 401(k) accounts of other employees or former employees, forging signatures of the payees and depositing the checks into her bank account. 

Each of the five wire fraud counts carries a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years imprisonment, upon conviction. The seven embezzlement counts carry maximum statutory penalties of five years imprisonment. The three aggravated identity theft charges each carry a mandatory statutory penalty of two years imprisonment, which must be served consecutively to any sentence imposed for a wire fraud or embezzlement conviction. In addition to prison terms, each of the 15 counts also carry a statutory maximum fine of $250,000 fine.

This case will be prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John R. Lewis.





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