SHREVEPORT, La. - Melissa H. Sepulvado, 59, of Zwolle, Louisiana was sentenced today by Chief United States District Judge S. Maurice Hicks, Jr. to 12 months and 1 day in prison, followed by 2 years of supervised release, on wire fraud charges, announced Acting United States Attorney Alexander C. Van Hook. Sepulvado was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $145,000.
Sepulvado pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud on May 13, 2021. According to information presented to the court at the guilty plea hearing, Sepulvado and her husband were employed by Weyerhaeuser Company (“Weyerhaeuser”) at the company’s mill located in Zwolle, Louisiana. Sepulvado was employed as a Senior Support Specialist and had been with the company for 17 years, and her husband was employed as an hourly worker. Her primary duties were to review and approve payroll entries for the hourly workers at Weyerhaeuser’s Zwolle mill through its internet based, electronic payroll system. In addition, she reviewed vacation payout requests by hourly workers. Vacation payout was an employee-benefit service that Weyerhaeuser provided to some of its hourly workers, which was earned vacation time based on tenure with the company and wages paid to them for the vacation time they took.
From November 2014 to April 2017, Sepulvado defrauded Weyerhaeuser of $145,000 by exploiting her position and access to the payroll system. She regularly entered vacation payout requests for her husband for hours he did not earn, and although she was not supposed to review or approve her husband’s pay requests, she did approve them and sent the approved requests via electronic wire to their payroll department which was outside of Louisiana. Weyerhaeuser then deposited money into her husband’s bank account based on the fraudulent pay requests. Sepulvado took steps to conceal the fraud by backdating numerous vacation payout requests, entering the requests for completed pay periods from months or years earlier. These actions concealed the requests from regular audits of the system.
The FBI conducted the investigation and Assistant U.S. Attorney Cadesby B. Cooper prosecuted the case.
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