Former Office Manager to Serve 3 1/2 Years in Prison for Defrauding Bloomington Employer of More Than $1 Million
PEORIA, Ill. – U.S. District Judge Michael M. Mihm has sentenced a woman who defrauded her former employer, a Bloomington, Ill., landscaping business, of more than $1,000,000. Yesterday afternoon, Dec. 12, Judge Mihm ordered that Tina Cozart, 55, formerly of Carlock, Ill., serve 42 months in federal prison. In addition, Cozart, currently of Fremont, Calif., was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $1,145,428 to her former employer, $346,299 to the IRS, and $25,000 to an insurance company. Cozart was ordered to report to the federal Bureau of Prisons on Feb. 20, 2018.
On June 16, 2017, Cozart pleaded guilty to one count each of wire fraud and filing a false income tax return. Cozart admitted that she used her position as office manager for F & W Lawn Care and Landscaping, Inc., to access and use the business’s credit cards and bank accounts to make unauthorized purchases for herself, her family, and others. According to statements presented at the sentencing hearing, in at least 13 months, Cozart charged more to the business’s credit cards than she earned for the year. Some of the money was spent on trips to Cancun, Las Vegas, Florida, and Phoenix, or to buy tickets to sporting events.
Cozart also used a dormant business bank account to deposit customer payments. Cozart then used the funds to pay the unauthorized personal purchases she had made using the business’s credit card. In addition, Cozart admitted she filed a false federal income tax return for tax year 2013 in that she did not report that she had obtained $333,378 in additional funds as a result of her fraud scheme.
The case was prosecuted by Supervisory Assistant U.S. Attorney Darilynn J. Knauss. The charges were investigated by the FBI and IRS, Criminal Investigation.