Dearborn, Michigan man indicted for conspiracy, wire, and mail fraud for nearly $4 million refund fraud on U.S. retailers
Seattle – The former Finance Director at two Seattle area non-profits was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 41 months in prison for embezzling more than $3 million from her employers, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman. Susana Tantico, 63, of Renton, Washington committed the embezzlement over an eleven-year period. At the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge James L. Robart said, he could not understand how Tantico went from defrauding one non-profit to another, especially since the first provided medical care to immigrant communities. “You were leaving people who are sick today without the money to treat them,” Judge Robart told Tantico.
“Ms. Tantico chose to victimize non-profit organizations, whose work is critical to our community: one employer provided medical care to those who cannot afford it; the other works to assist youth in the criminal justice system,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Gorman. “But over 11 years, knowing she was putting critical services at risk, she stole millions to finance her mortgage, pay for her vacations, and finance her gambling losses.”
According to records filed in the case, in 1999 Tantico began working for a non-profit that provides healthcare to underserved populations. Ultimately, Tantico became the non-profit’s Finance Director. Between 2011 and June 2020, Tantico secretly embezzled millions of dollars from the healthcare organization. Bank records are available only for the period beginning in December 2016. Between December 2016 and 2020, Tantico stole nearly $2.3 million from the healthcare non-profit. She used the non-profit’s debit and credit cards to withdraw $1.6 million at casinos for gambling. She also used the debit and credit cards to pay for personal vacations, such as a $26,000 family trip to Florida, and trips to Las Vegas and San Diego. Tantico also used the healthcare non-profit’s debit and credit cards for more than $83,000 worth of purchases at Nordstrom, and $40,000 worth of purchases at Apple stores.
After running up these expenses, Tantico used the non-profit’s funds to pay the credit card bills and disguised the payments as legitimate expenses. For example, she categorized expenses for one vacation as “pharmacy supplies” in the accounting system. Throughout this timeframe, Tantico told the non-profit auditors that she was aware of no fraud at the non-profit.
In 2020, Tantico went to work as Finance Director for a different non-profit -- one with a focus on criminal justice issues. Tantico used more than $485,000 of the non-profit’s funds for gambling at casinos. She transferred $21,000 from the non-profit to her mortgage servicer to pay her home mortgage. She also transferred money to her personal bank account. Tantico then altered the bank records to hide the embezzlement.
At one point, Tantico was questioned by one of the organization’s banks about the pattern of withdrawals at casinos. She claimed that the non-profit held youth programs at the casinos, and that the withdrawals were for cash prize giveaways. In all, Tantico stole nearly $893,000 from the non-profit. The non-profit has incurred $132,000 in costs to forensically audit its books, fix its accounting procedures and records, and reply to vendors.
In court today, Dominique Davis spoke about the impact of the embezzlement on his organization, Community Passageways. “This was rough, this betrayal of trust. It almost ruined our whole organization. We barely survived this. We were made out to be villains,” Davis told the court.
In recommending a 41-month sentence, Assistant United States Attorney Seth Wilkinson noted, “Tantico abused positions of trust. Tantico was hired (twice) to safeguard the finances of her employers, and they trusted her to manage the funds with integrity. Instead, Tantico not only stole the money, but used her position to hide her theft. She created phony accounting entries that made her expenditures look like business expenses. She doctored bank statements. She lied to auditors. And she showed extreme duplicity by developing financial policies prohibiting the personal use of corporate credit cards, while knowing she was stealing millions of dollars by doing exactly that.” Tantico’s theft averaged about $550,000 per year between 2016 and 2022.
In court today, Tantico said “I am truly sorry… They were my work family…. It’s like I was two separate people…. I always meant to fix it.”
Following prison, Tantico will be on three years of supervised release. She has a restitution obligation of $3,121,572. She provided the court with a $60,000 check today from the sale of her home.
The case was investigated by the FBI.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Seth Wilkinson.
Press contact for the U.S. Attorney’s Office is Communications Director Emily Langlie at (206) 553-4110 or Emily.Langlie@usdoj.gov.