NKC Woman Pleads Guilty to Embezzling $277,000 from Her Employer
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Tom Larson, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a North Kansas City, Mo., woman pleaded guilty in federal court today to embezzling more than $277,000 from her former employer.
Tonya A. Topel, 40, of North Kansas City, Mo., waived her right to a grand jury and pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Gary A. Fenner to a federal information that charges her with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.
Topel was a senior auditor at Construction Benefits Audit Corporation (CBAC), a Kansas City, Mo., non-profit corporation that conducts employer audits of union contracts for employers making payments into fringe benefit plans, and ensures fringe benefit payments are made correctly. Topel, who earned approximately $68,000 a year, managed audits and staff and presented ongoing audits. She handled expense payments and had sole access to CBAC’s QuickBooks.
By pleading guilty today, Topel admitted that she conducted four fraudulent embezzlement schemes while employed at CBAC. She began her first scheme, in which she created false invoices for toner cartridges, on Oct. 18, 2012, just a few months after she started working at CBAC. She then added three more fraud schemes, which continued until CBAC discovered her embezzlement and she resigned in May 2016.
Through her four fraud schemes, Topel embezzled a total of at least $277,681 from CBAC. The investigation to date has shown Topel’s spending of the embezzled funds included travel to Hawaii, Dallas, Boston, and the Bahamas; restaurants; entertainment, including golf, spas, tickets for the Kansas City Royals and Chiefs and Worlds of Fun; a 2014 Ford Mustang; and personal spending such as cash, clothing, dance classes, utility bills, jewelry, transfers to relatives, bank fees/NSF fees, iPads, groceries, and other living expenses.
In Topel’s first scheme to defraud CBAC, she created false invoices for toner cartridges and correspondingly altered CBAC American Express monthly statements to make it appear the toner invoices were being charged to CBAC’s American Express account. Topel submitted the invoices and altered American Express bills to CBAC. CBAC then paid for the false toner invoices to American Express. In reality, Topel made personal charges to the CBAC American Express card, which CBAC paid. Topel submitted her first false toner invoice on Oct. 18, 2012, and continued this scheme through May 2015, during which time she embezzled approximately $45,809.
In her second scheme to defraud CBAC, Topel falsely inflated her payroll checks and made payments to a false IRA plan (which was actually her own bank account). Topel began this scheme in March 2013 and continued it into 2016, during which time she embezzled approximately $24,777.
In her third scheme to defraud CBAC, Topel used a former vendor’s name to create a false email address, false street address, 72 false invoices, and false IRS forms. Topel created the false invoices in amounts ranging from $1,080 to $4,680, made payable to bank accounts controlled by her. Through this scheme, Topel embezzled approximately $188,599.
In her fourth scheme to defraud CBAC, Topel misused a company credit card by charging personal expenses, such as a vacation to the Bahamas, to the card beginning in 2016. Topel then paid the CBAC’s company credit card bill using CBAC’s bank account. Topel created at least five false paystubs in which she showed deductions from her paycheck in order to reimburse CBAC, however, she made no reimbursements for her use of the company credit card. Through this scheme, Topel embezzled approximately $19,780.
Under the terms of today’s plea agreement, Topel must pay a money judgment of at least $277,681 and forfeit to the government a 2014 Ford Mustang.
Under federal statutes, Topel is subject to a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison without parole for wire fraud, plus a mandatory consecutive sentence of two years in federal prison without parole for aggravated identity theft. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathleen D. Mahoney. It was investigated by the FBI.