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Press Release

Great Falls woman charged with defrauding two businesses of more than $200,000

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Montana

GREAT FALLS — A Great Falls woman accused of embezzling more than $200,000 from two businesses while working as a bookkeeper appeared for arraignment on May 9 on fraud charges, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said today.

Tara Durnell, 63, pleaded not guilty to an indictment charging her with 13 counts of wire fraud and one count of mail fraud. If convicted of the most serious charge, Durnell faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.

U.S. Magistrate Judge John T. Johnston presided. Durnell was released pending further proceedings.

The indictment alleges that Durnell, while working as a bookkeeper, embezzled from Kronebusch Electric, Inc. (KEI), an electrical services company located in Conrad, and then from Mitchell’s Crash Repair, an auto repair shop in Great Falls, after she left KEI’s employment. From at least November 2013 to 2019, Durnell used her access to KEI’s business bank accounts and software to direct pre-signed checks to cover her personal expenses and then miscode the payments in the software to make the personal payments look like legitimate KEI business expenses. The indictment further alleges Durnell embezzled more than $200,000 from KEI to pay personal credit card debt, personal car loan payments and debts of family members. While employed at Mitchell’s Crash Repair, Durnell allegedly embezzled approximately $15,000 by using pre-signed checks to make unauthorized payments for personal expenses, including taxes on her home and a bar she owned in Conrad.

An indictment is merely an accusation, and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey K. Starnes is prosecuting the case. The FBI, Montana Division of Criminal Investigation and Great Falls Police Department conducted the investigation.

PACER case reference. 23-27.

The progress of cases may be monitored through the U.S. District Court Calendar and the PACER system. To establish a PACER account, which provides electronic access to review documents filed in a case, please visit To access the District Court’s calendar, please visit



Clair Johnson Howard

Public Affairs Officer


Updated May 11, 2023

Financial Fraud
Press Release Number: 23-150