Former Bookkeeper for South Sound Real Estate Franchises Sentenced to Nearly 6 Years in Prison for Embezzling more than $400,000
Defendant Transferred Money from Company Accounts to those of Friends, Relatives or for her Personal Expenses
The 48-year-old former bookkeeper for two Windermere Real Estate franchises was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to 71 months in prison and three years of supervised release for six counts of wire fraud related to her embezzlement scheme, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. CINDI ALLISON, now of Ben Wheeler, Texas, used her unfettered access to the bank accounts of Windermere Puyallup and Windermere South Sound to embezzle $478,398. When the embezzlement scheme was uncovered, ALLISON went on the offensive filing spurious complaints with various state regulators to attack and distract the victim of her theft. At sentencing U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton said, “What you did was despicable . . . . And doing that to a friend is not only wrong, it’s immoral. It breaks every ligament that ties civilized people together.”
“This defendant’s greed harmed a small business owner and those who depended on her business for their livelihood,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. “Wages were frozen, retirement savings contributions delayed, and ultimately the business was sold below market value because of this defendant’s actions.”
During a five-day jury trial in June 2017, prosecutors presented evidence that ALLISON transferred money from Windermere accounts to her own bank accounts and those of her boyfriend, ex-husband, and service providers such as a roofer in Ben Wheeler, Texas. Between 2011 and 2015, ALLISON made 782 unauthorized transfers from the two real estate franchise accounts to sixteen different accounts that all had some connection to ALLISON. As the bookkeeper, ALLISON made various entries in the records and strategically bundled various transactions together to make the transfers appear legitimate. The fraud came to light in March 2015, when the new purchaser of the businesses started investigating some of the transfers and could not get straight answers from ALLISON. ALLISON had been working remotely from Texas as the bookkeeper, and the company shut down the computer system to protect its accounts.
The impact of ALLISON’s fraud was even greater than the amount of money she embezzled. The victim had to spend more than $50,000 in forensic accounting and attorney fees to uncover the extent of the fraud scheme, and the sales price for the business was at least $100,000 below its true market value because the fraudulent entries on the business’ books made it appear less profitable than it actually was. Today Judge Leighton ordered ALLISON to pay $630,346 in restitution.
ALLISON has been in custody since being convicted following her trial in June 2017.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Secret Service. The case WAS prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Andre Peñalver and Steven Masada.