Auto Sales Office Manager & Bookkeeper Charged with Bank Fraud, Aggravated Identity Theft
PROVIDENCE – A South Kingstown woman was arrested and made her initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Providence today on charges that she allegedly forged business checks and stole as much as $400,000 from a Cranston auto dealership where she was employed as an office manager and bookkeeper.
Michelle Saritelli, 45, appeared before U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Lincoln D. Almond on a criminal complaint charging her with bank fraud and aggravated identity theft. It is alleged that Saritelli employed several schemes to defraud the owners of Stamas Auto and Truck Center.
Saritelli’s arrest and initial appearance in U.S. District Court are announced by United States Attorney Stephen G. Dambruch, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division Harold H. Shaw, and Cranston Police Chief Colonel Michael J. Winquist.
According to court documents, on September 27, 2017, the owners of Stamas Auto were notified that their bank accounts had been frozen. An internal review of the accounts by the business owners was begun which determined that several check ledgers were missing, funds were unaccounted for, and that numerous checks had been forged and/or fraudulently cashed. The owners notified Cranston Police detectives who sought the assistance of the FBI.
The majority of missing bank ledgers were located during a court-authorized search of Saritelli’s residence on June 7, 2018.
A forensic audit conducted by the FBI determined that for several years, Saritelli, who was employed at Stamas Auto Center from April 2008 to October 2018, allegedly fraudulently wrote, signed, and cashed and/or deposited Stamas Auto Center non-payroll checks into her own personal bank accounts; pocketed substantial portions of checks written and cashed on a weekly basis to fund the dealership’s petty cash fund; provided fraudulent checks to her husband for auto repair services and parts sales not provided; and stole portions of cash payments made by customers to Stamas Auto Center.
The forensic audit revealed hundreds of bank transactions of cash deposits and withdrawals from Saritelli’s personal bank accounts which often coincided with the issuance of fraudulent Stamas Auto Center business checks and unaccounted for cash. The majority of cash withdrawals from Saritelli’s accounts were made from ATMs at banks located near Saritelli’s South Kingstown residence and at casinos in Newport, Lincoln, and at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun.
A criminal complaint is merely an allegation and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Saritelli was released on unsecured bond following her initial appearance today in U.S. District Court.
According to court documents, Saritelli was convicted in Rhode Island State Court in May 2004 on charges that she embezzled approximately $30,000 from a Johnston auto dealership.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lee H. Vilker.