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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Missouri

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Local Bookkeeper/Office Manager Sentenced On $2 Million Embezzlement

St. Louis, MO - ELIZABETH BYRNE was sentenced to 41 months in prison for embezzling more than $2 million over the course of about ten years.

According to court documents, between 1997 and February 2013, Elizabeth Earnest, a/k/a Elizabeth Byrne, a/k/a Elizabeth Johnson, worked as an office manager and assistant for various businesses owned by an individual referred to in court documents as Employer.  Her duties included managing and paying the Employer's personal bills and attending to the Employer's personal schedule.  Earnest admitted with her plea that from 2003 to February 2013, she abused her position of trust to embezzle funds from her Employer and to cover up her embezzlement.  Earnest made blank checks signed by the Employer payable to herself instead of paying the Employer's personal expenses.  After making the checks payable to herself, she deposited the checks into one of her personal bank accounts and used the funds to pay her personal bills and to send funds to family members.  In order to conceal the scheme, Earnest intercepted Employer's monthly bank statements and removed and shredded the incriminating checks that she had made payable to herself.  To further cover her tracks, Earnest falsified bookkeeping entries she prepared for the Employer and falsely classified the expenses.

Her scheme was uncovered in February 2013 when she was out of the office for a vacation and someone else was able to receive, open and review the true bank information.

Earnest, St. Louis, MO, pled guilty last July to one felony count of mail fraud and appeared today for sentencing before United States District Judge Jean C. Hamilton.  Additionally, as part of her earlier plea, Earnest has agreed to the forfeiture to the government all money and property derived from her illegal activity.

This case was investigated by the United States Postal Inspection Service.  Assistant United States Attorney John Bodenhausen handled the case for the U.S.
Updated March 19, 2015