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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Indiana

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, August 23, 2018

Bookkeeper sentenced for defrauding small Franklin, Indiana business

$315,000 fraud nearly bankrupted employer

PRESS RELEASE

Indianapolis – United States Attorney Josh Minkler today announced that Erica Howard, 42, of Indianapolis, was sentenced in federal court for her role in a two-year scheme to siphon funds from her employer, a family-owned construction company. Howard, who has an over 10-year history of multiple convictions for fraud, forgery, and theft, was sentenced to 58 months (nearly five years) by U. S. District Court Judge William T. Lawrence.

 “Fraud on a small business often impacts much more than the bottom line,” Minkler said.  “It can cost people good jobs, as it did here and breeds distrust, especially when the fraud is perpetrated by a trusted employee. People who exploit a position of trust for purely personal gain will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

Just months after starting as bookkeeper, Howard began diverting thousands in company funds to herself. She exploited her access to company accounts online to pay over a dozen personal credit cards and buy electronics and other items on Amazon. 

Howard concealed her fraud for over two years. Entrusted with keeping the company books, she never noted her personal uses of company funds. Then, each year, she delivered the false books to the company’s accountant, along with a set of phony bank statements that she had manipulated to make the numbers match.

Howard’s fraud was finally discovered when a company check bounced. By then, she had  funneled over $315,000 in company money to herself and, in the process, concealed the fact that she had not paid hundreds of thousands in company bills. As a result, the company’s owners were forced to lay off workers and liquidate retirement savings to keep the business afloat.  

Following an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Franklin Police Department, Howard pleaded guilty to the federal wire fraud charge. According to Assistant United States Attorney Nick Linder, who prosecuted this case for the government, Howard must serve three years of supervised release after her sentence and make full restitution to the victim.

“Ms. Howard was entrusted with the finances of this family owned business but chose to betray that trust for her own financial gain. Those actions not only affected the company’s owners, but employees who lost their jobs through no fault of their own,” said Robert A. Middleton, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Indianapolis Division. “The FBI will continue to work diligently with our law enforcement partners to investigate cases such as this and ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice.”    

In October 2017, United States Attorney Josh J. Minkler announced a Strategic Plan designed to shape and strengthen the District’s response to its most significant public safety challenges. This prosecution demonstrates the Office’s firm commitment to prosecuting criminals who exploit positions of trust to perpetrate elaborate fraud schemes. See United States Attorney’s Office, Southern District of Indiana Strategic Plan 5.1

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Updated August 23, 2018