SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that a Galena, Mo., woman has been sentenced in federal court for embezzling more than $300,000 from her employer.
Sarah N. Underwood, 36, of Galena, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Beth Phillips on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, to two years and six months in federal prison without parole. The court also ordered Underwood to pay $311,280 in restitution to Fall Creek Condominium and $95,008 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service, for total restitution payments of $406,288.
On March 17, 2014, Underwood pleaded guilty to wire fraud, money laundering and failure to file a tax return. Underwood worked as the community manager for Fall Creek Condominium in Branson, Mo., from Jan. 15, 2007, until she was fired on Sept. 7, 2012, when her theft was discovered. Fall Creek and its owners association has 639 condominiums owned by individuals and under its association. Among other duties, Underwood was responsible for the book-keeping and financial affairs of Fall Creek, and was an authorized signatory on the checking accounts.
Underwood’s wire fraud, money laundering scheme, and tax fraud extended over two years and totaled $406,288 in losses to her employer and the government.
Underwood conducted numerous unauthorized electronic bank transfers and wrote $311,280 in unauthorized checks from the bank accounts of the Fall Creek Condominium Owner’s Association over a two-year period. Underwood also received two paychecks every two weeks from Fall Creek. Underwood deposited these checks into her bank accounts and spent the money on personal expenses and purchasing luxury items.
For example, Underwood admitted that she spent $76,287 to purchase a Shelby Mustang and used $25,505 to purchase a condominium at Fall Creek. Underwood also purchased a 2012 Harley-Davidson motorcycle and a 2012 Yamaha wave-runner.
Underwood used a cashier’s check written on her employer’s bank account to purchase a 2012 Ford F350 Super Duty 4X4 Crew Cab Truck for $56,169. The truck was registered to Mstrmind Enterprises, a company owned by her and her boyfriend, which performed construction and rehabilitation work at Fall Creek. Underwood was responsible for running the business affairs of Mstrmind, while her boyfriend, who was also employed by Fall Creek, was the project manager and responsible for the actual construction or rehabilitation project. The embezzlement scheme included an $80,000 check written to Mstrmind for work that was never performed.
Underwood also admitted that she failed to file federal tax returns for 2010, 2011 and 2012.
According to court documents, after pleading guilty in this case, Underwood became involved in another incident that further casts suspicion on her because of monies from a not-for-profit organization that were in her possession and went missing. On May 13, 2014, the Branson, Mo., Police Department received a report from Biker’s Against Drunk Drivers (BADD) regarding the possible theft of a bank deposit totaling $1,997. Although BADD chose not to proceed with a criminal prosecution, court documents note, Underwood engaged in behavior that placed her under suspicion for theft and fraud while she was facing a sentencing for similar conduct perpetrated against a different victim.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Carney. It was investigated by the FBI and IRS-Criminal Investigation.