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Press Release

Former Executive Heads To Federal Prison For Defrauding Shipping Company

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Texas

HOUSTON – Kathleen Creel, a former employee of Wilhelmsen Ships Service Inc., has been ordered to federal prison following her conviction of 10 counts of wire fraud in connection with defrauding her former company, announced United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson. Creel, of New York City, N.Y., pleaded guilty Feb. 6, 2015.

Today, U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein Jr., who accepted the guilty plea, handed Creel a 60-month sentence to be immediately followed by three years of supervised release. She was further ordered to pay $4,684,860.51 in restitution. In handing down the sentence, Judge Werlein noted that her claim to want to make repayment “rang hollow” because she had been on release for years and had not paid one single dollar back yet.

As part of her guilty plea, Creel, 43, admitted that from June 2003 through August 2009, she was employed by Wilhelmsen and a predecessor company at its Pasadena headquarters as the company’s customs and tax manager. In this role, Creel had access to sensitive financial information, including billing records and bank account information for Wilhelmsen vendors. Creel also admitted she had access to Wilhelmsen bank accounts and the ability to cause Wilhelmsen to make payments to vendors.

Creel admitted that from at least June 2003 through approximately August 2009, she defrauded Wilhelmsen by embezzling money from the company’s bank accounts. Creel used Wilhelmsen’s accounting system to cause a series of wire transfers from the company’s bank accounts into her own. Specifically, Creel carried out the scheme by creating false invoices from two Wilhelmsen vendors. Creel entered the false invoices into Wilhelmsen’s accounting system and either approved or caused them to be approved for payment. These actions then caused interstate wire transfers from Wilhelmsen’s New York based bank account into Creel’s bank account.

Previously released on bond, Creel was taken into custody following the sentencing today where he will remain pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

The case is being investigated by the FBI and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Pearson.

Updated April 30, 2015