Former Orcas Island Bookkeeper Pleads Guilty to Wire Fraud for Embezzling from Employer
Violated the Trust of Retired Couple – Stole more than $750,000 for Trips, Home and other Personal Expenses
A former resident of Eastsound, Orcas Island, Washington pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to wire fraud in connection with her scheme to steal from her employers, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. SARAH ELIZABETH COFFELT, 42, who now resides in Seattle, worked for a retired couple and their business and non-profit entities as a bookkeeper from 2003 until she was terminated for theft in 2016. COFFELT admits in her plea agreement that she stole more than $755,000 from the couple’s accounts by transferring money from their accounts to her own, by forging checks and by using business credit cards for her family’s personal expenses. U.S. District Judge Thomas S. Zilly scheduled sentencing for July 13, 2017.
According to the facts admitted in the plea agreement, in 2003 COFFELT was hired to handle bookkeeping duties for the couple and various entities they owned including Apogee Flight Incorporated, L.L.C. (Apogee) which owned aircraft and hangars, and the non-profit Heritage Flight Museum (HFM). COFFELT’S duties included handling the payroll for the house, Apogee and HFM employees as well as the bills for Apogee, HFM and other entities. Even as she worked as a bookkeeper, COFFELT and her husband owned Moon Glow Arts and Crafts, a store in Eastsound. COFFELT admits that she used money from her employers’ accounts to pay the expenses of the business, as well as other expenses such as trips for her family, her mortgage, her taxes and more than $30,000 in fuel charges.
COFFELT was able to hide her embezzlement by having the couple’s bank and business credit card statements sent to her home so that she was the only person reviewing them. She used a company credit card that was supposed to be for moderate unusual fuel charges by a maintenance worker to charge more than $30,000 for her family’s expenses and allowed the maintenance worker to charge a similar amount.
COFFELT has agreed to pay $755,378 in restitution. Wire fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. This is the maximum penalty allowed by law. The actual sentence imposed in any case will reflect the specific facts of the crime, including the impact on any victims and the defendant.
The case was investigated by the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Susan Roe.