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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of South Carolina

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, April 29, 2021

Former Bookkeeper Pleads Guilty in Federal Court to Embezzling More Than $1,000,000 from Charleston Real Estate Company


Charleston, South Carolina --- Acting United States Attorney M. Rhett Dehart announced today that Karen Rhett, 58, of Mount Pleasant, pled guilty to federal charges involving the embezzlement of over $1,000,000 from Simmons Realty Company and its owners, while Rhett served as the Charleston real estate company’s bookkeeper.

Evidence presented in court showed that, from the mid-1990s, Rhett managed and controlled the finances, payroll, and tax preparation for Simmons Realty and all related entities.  During the course of her employment, Rhett engaged in a complex embezzlement scheme – starting by falsifying the business ledgers to move money to her personal accounts and evolving into augmenting her salary, stealing directly from other employee’s paychecks, and stealing from the other Simmons Realty related entities. 

According to a review by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of bank records, checks, and other financial documents, including the hard drive Rhett used during the course of her employment, Rhett stole more than $1 million from Simmons Realty Company, its owners, and related entities.  On the hard drive, agents recovered detailed spreadsheets Rhett maintained regarding the amount of money she was stealing, where the money came from, and how she falsified the business ledgers.

In addition to the money stolen with the embezzlement scheme, evidence presented showed that Rhett never reported the income on her taxes and failed to pay more than $380,000 in taxes during the course of the scheme.

Rhett faces a statutory maximum of 20 years in prison on the charges and potential financial penalties.  With the guilty plea, Rhett has also agreed to forfeit over $640,000.

The case was investigated by the FBI and the IRS.  Assistant United States Attorney Emily Limehouse is prosecuting the case.

Component(s): 
Contact: 
Michael Mule', (843) 327-0882
Updated April 29, 2021