Former office manager of Mountain State Justice pleads guilty for embezzling over $1.5 million
Defendant embezzled the money over nearly 12 years through stealing checks and using a secret account
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A former office manager at Mountain State Justice who embezzled over $1.5 million pleaded guilty today, announced United States Attorney Carol Casto. Kim Cooper, 55, of St. Albans, entered her guilty plea to wire fraud and tax evasion.
Cooper began working in the late 1990’s in the Charleston office of Mountain State Justice, Inc., a non-profit organization that provides legal services for indigent and low-income West Virginia residents in civil cases. Cooper became the office manager and her duties included overseeing the daily operations of the Charleston office and making deposits of checks in Mountain State Justice’s bank accounts.
Cooper admitted that she opened a money market account at WesBanco Bank in the name of Mountain State Justice, which no one else at Mountain State Justice knew about. Cooper admitted that in late June 2004, she began stealing checks made out to Mountain State Justice that were payment for attorneys’ fees and depositing these checks in the secret bank account. Cooper also admitted that she wrote checks from the secret account to a close family member with notations that made the payments appear legitimate. Cooper additionally admitted that she endorsed those checks, deposited the checks in another account, and used the money to pay rent, make car payments, make credit card payments, and pay for personal expenses.
Cooper further admitted that she hid her crime by omitting these stolen checks from the cash log used to record all incoming monies and by hiding all incoming mail from WesBanco. Cooper perpetuated this fraud by sending false income statements to the board of directors of Mountain State Justice that underreported the income of the organization. Cooper also admitted that she attempted to evade income tax she owed on this embezzled money. Cooper’s scheme ended in late March 2016 when she was interviewed by federal law enforcement agents and her employment was terminated.
Cooper faces up to 25 years in federal prison when she is sentenced on April 20, 2017. As part of her plea agreement, Cooper agreed to pay restitution of $1,462,023.83 to Mountain State Justice and $377,776.89 to the United States.
The FBI and the IRS - Criminal Investigation division conducted the investigation. First Assistant United States Attorney Philip H. Wright is in charge of the prosecution. The plea hearing was held before United States District Judge John T. Copenhaver, Jr.
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