Kanawha County Woman Pleads Guilty to Federal Fraud Crime
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of West Virginia
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Tonja Oakes, 58, of Cross Lanes, pleaded guilty today to wire fraud, admitting to defrauding the American Red Cross (ARC) while employed at its Cross Lanes office. Oakes agreed to pay of $21,943 in restitution as a consequence of her guilty plea.
According to court documents and statements made in court, the ARC hired Oakes in 2105 as a business operations specialist, and her duties included acting as the purchasing agent for the ARC Central Appalachian Region. On March 9, 2019, Oakes began working as the executive assistance to the chief executive officer of the ARC Central Appalachian Region. Among her duties in that position, Oakes reviewed monthly statements of credit cards issued by ARC to certain employees and approved the statements for payment. This position allowed Oakes to review and approve her own expenditures.
Oakes admitted to making multiple unauthorized purchases with ARC-provided credit cards from at least February 17, 2017 through at least October 5, 2020. Oakes further admitted that the unauthorized transactions included a $973.77 payment for servicing a 2011 Kia Sorento on June 8, 2020. Other unauthorized purchases by Oakes included buying items while on vacation in South Carolina, groceries, and personal items purchased on Amazon. Oakes admitted that she used her employment position to review and approve her credit card statements, even though she knew many of the payments were unauthorized.
Oakes is scheduled to be sentenced on December 7, 2023, and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine.
United States Attorney Will Thompson made the announcement and commended the investigative work of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security-Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
United States District Judge Irene C. Berger presided over the hearing. Assistant United States Attorney Ryan Blackwell is prosecuting the case.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia. Related court documents and information can be found on PACER by searching for Case No. 2:23-cr-67.
Updated August 1, 2023