News and Press Releases

Former Insurance Company Controller Sentenced For Wire Fraud Scheme

Sept. 9, 2011

HOUSTON - Carla Jean Johnson, 40, of Houston, has been sentenced  to 120 months in federal prison for her conviction of conspiracy to commit wire fraud involving almost $1 million in loss to the victim company, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today.

That sentence imposed by U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon includes enhancements based on her abuse of a position of trust, her leadership role in involving 13 persons to assist her in the theft, as well as using sophisticated means to commit the offense over a two-year period. Johnson will also be required to serve a three-year-term of supervised release upon completion of that sentence and was ordered to pay $977,418.38 in restitution. The court imposed a sentence above the U.S. Sentencing Guideline range of 87-108 months because of the non-monetary loss or risk to the insurance company, stating that the defendant’s actions “substantially affected the company and individuals to a great degree.” The court also ordered the 120-month-term be served consecutive to any sentence Johnson may receive if her state probationary term is revoked.

The one-count indictment, returned Dec. 14, 2010, alleged that Johnson worked as controller of a Houston insurance company beginning in 2005. On or about, July 11, 2007, through July 11, 2009, Johnson began sending money from the company’s account to her friends, family and at least one co-worker, who would then return some of the money to Johnson. On April 21, 2011, Johnson pleaded guilty to the wire fraud that involves more than $1 million in potential loss to Columbia Lloyd’s, a small local insurance company. 

The fraud was discovered July 11, 2009, when Johnson and co-defendant Donnie Smith, 33, of Houston and Atlanta, Ga., tried to cash a Columbia Lloyd’s check for $180,000 made out to Smith at a local Wachovia branch. Johnson was fired from her position as controller July 13, 2009, when company officials confirmed to Wachovia that the check was fraudulently issued. Upon a close examination of their accounts, the company, along with the FBI, discovered additional fraudulent withdrawals by Johnson. She had disguised her theft in some instances by listing the payee as an insurance company or by listing a claim or policy number on the document authorizing the transfer of money to a co-conspirator.

Johnson has been in federal custody without bond since her Dec. 20, 2010, arrest. She will remain in custody pending transfer to a Bureau of Prisons facility to be designated in the near future where she will serve her sentence. 

Smith previously pleaded guilty and was sentenced on Sept. 2, 2011, to 41 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $199,914 in restitution.  Another co-defendant, Royce Lamar Smith, 38, of Houston, pleaded guilty in April 2011 and was sentenced on Aug. 26, 2011, to 60 months imprisonment followed by a three-year-term of  supervised release and ordered to pay $168,474.91 in restitution. Royce Smith was on state felony shock probation along with Johnson for a theft from Johnson’s prior employer in 2004. 
           
The conviction is the result of an investigation conducted by the FBI and prosecution by Assistant U.S. Attorney Martha Minnis.

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