Bloomington accountant sentenced in federal fraud scheme
Former CPA to spend nearly 3 years in prison for defrauding long-time client out of over $1,000,000
Indianapolis – United States Attorney Josh J. Minkler announced today that a Bloomington accountant and financial advisor was sentenced in federal court for his role in defrauding a long-time client and family friend of nearly $1.2 million. Michael E. Sallee, 59, was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt after pleading guilty to mail fraud charges.
“We expect integrity from accountants and financial professionals,” said Minkler. “We entrust them with our money. We talk with them about our families and our plans for our children and we expect that they are looking out for our best interests. So when they exploit that special trust for their own personal gain through lies and deceit, this office will hold them accountable.”
For over three decades, Sallee served as a trusted CPA and financial advisor for clients throughout southern Indiana. In 1997, he began managing the financial affairs for the victim in this case, a long-time client of his father’s, who was also an accountant. The victim, a widow, and her children and grandchildren, had entrusted Sallee to invest and manage the proceeds from the sale of the family business, which the victim’s late husband had built.
In 2003, however, Sallee began embezzling funds from the victim’s account to his own personal account. For the next ten years, Sallee wrote checks or transferred funds to himself from the victim’s account on almost 100 separate occasions – all the while repeatedly reassuring the victim and her family that their money was safe and growing.
In 2013, the victim and her children began to notice irregularities in the financial statements that Sallee would periodically prepare and mail to them. An FBI investigation revealed that the financial statements were false – they overstated the true value of the victim’s account, which had been drastically reduced by Sallee’s embezzlement.
In total, from 2003 to 2013, Sallee stole $1,193,781.90 from the victim and her family. He used the money for his own benefit, from buying meals at restaurants and making purchases retail stores, to taking family vacations to Disney World, Mackinac Island, and Yellowstone National Park.
“This is someone who was a trusted financial advisor and longtime family friend of the victim who abused his position of trust,” said W. Jay Abbott, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Indianapolis Division. “This investigation shows that our special agents and local partners work diligently to uncover this type of fraudulent behavior and ensure an individual such as this, who preyed on an elderly person, was brought to justice.”
According to Assistant United States Attorney Nick Linder, who prosecuted the case for the government, Sallee was ordered to pay full restitution to the victim for the entire amount he stole. To date, Sallee has paid back approximately $168,000.