Greene County Woman Sentenced to 60 Months for Stealing $3.1 Million From Her Employer
Attempted Cover-Up Cost Cargill, Inc. More Than $25 Million
ALBANY, NEW YORK – Diane Backis, age 51, of Athens, New York, was sentenced today to 60 months in prison for stealing $3.1 million from her employer Cargill, Inc. (“Cargill”) and causing over $25 million in additional losses.
The announcement was made by Acting United States Attorney Grant C. Jaquith; Special Agent in Charge Vadim D. Thomas of the Albany Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); and Special Agent in Charge James D. Robnett of Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), New York Field Office.
United States District Judge Mae A. D’Agostino described the scheme as “insidious,” and Backis’s behavior as both “greedy” and “piggish.” Judge D’Agostino imposed a 2-year term of supervised release, to begin after Backis is released from prison. She also ordered Backis to pay $3.5 million in restitution to Cargill, an agricultural services conglomerate based in Minnetonka, Minnesota.
On November 28, 2016, Backis pled guilty to charges of mail fraud and filing a false income tax return. Backis was responsible for accounting functions for Cargill’s grain operations in Albany, including creating customer contracts, generating and mailing invoices, and receiving and processing customer payments. As part of her plea, Backis admitted that she defrauded Cargill while working in the company’s Port of Albany facility, which receives, stores, and sells grain products.
Acting United States Attorney Grant C. Jaquith stated: “Diane Backis was a longtime Cargill employee who was trusted to manage valuable grain commodities. She repeatedly betrayed that trust by stealing over $3 million over a decade and causing at least $25 million in additional losses in an effort to cover up her theft. Thanks to the teamwork of federal agents who unraveled Backis’s complex and lengthy scheme, she is being held accountable for her crime.”
FBI Special Agent in Charge Vadim D. Thomas stated: “Ms. Backis caused tens of millions in losses and did lasting damage to Cargill. The FBI will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to ensure this kind of malicious behavior is investigated and prosecuted.”
IRS-CI Special Agent in Charge James D. Robnett stated: “Today’s sentencing demonstrates the serious consequences of financial crimes such as this, and the collective focus of IRS Criminal Investigation (CI) and our partners on holding the perpetrators of such fraudulent schemes accountable for their actions.”
As part of her plea, Backis admitted that she stole hundreds of customer payments sent to Cargill totaling at least $3,115,610 and deposited them into her personal bank accounts. Backis also regularly created fraudulent invoices and mailed them to Cargill’s customers. The fraudulent invoices charged Cargill’s customers prices substantially less than what Cargill paid to acquire the grain products, causing Cargill significant financial losses. The fraudulent invoices also directed Cargill’s customers to send payment directly to Backis, thereby bypassing Cargill’s corporate controls.
To hide her activities, Backis made false entries into Cargill’s accounting software to make it appear that customers were paying prices higher than those in her fraudulent invoices, and that customers owed Cargill millions of dollars for delivered grain products. Backis then later reversed those false entries. As a result, Cargill lost at least $25 million.
Backis also admitted that she filed a false 2015 individual income tax return because she declared only $61,208 in total income and omitted over $450,000 in additional taxable income she received by stealing customer payments intended for Cargill in 2015.
This case was investigated by the FBI and IRS-CI, and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Wayne A. Myers.