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Press Release

Seattle contract bookkeeper and accountant indicted for Wire Fraud, Aggravated Identity Theft, and Destruction of Records

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Washington
Defendant used a variety of fraudulent schemes to steal approximately $200,000 from Seattle mountain bike shop

Seattle – A Seattle woman who was employed as a contract bookkeeper and accountant for a high-end mountain bike company appeared in federal court today, indicted for her embezzlement of at least $188,000 from the company, announced U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran.  JOAN C. TROWER, 50, is charged with nine counts of wire fraud, four counts of aggravated identity theft, and one count of destruction of records.  Trial before Chief U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez is scheduled for April 12, 2021.

According to the indictment, TROWER worked as a contract bookkeeper and accountant for the mountain bike company from July 2015 to May 2018.  Her contract was terminated when the embezzlement was discovered.  TROWER used a variety of schemes to steal from company accounts: creating checks using the company software system, forging signatures, claiming expenses and compensation she did not earn, and making transfers from company accounts to accounts she controlled in the names of phony tax accounting businesses.  For example, while most employees received at most three checks per month (two for salary and one for expenses), TROWER wrote as many as thirteen checks to herself in one month.  TROWER put false descriptions in the memo line, sometimes falsely claiming the funds were to reimburse her for an outside tax accounting firm she claimed to have hired.  TROWER transferred money from company accounts to accounts she controlled—transferring more than $26,000 to her account in the span of just a few months in 2015.  TROWER and her boyfriend used the money to, among other things, gamble at area casinos.

The indictment alleges that TROWER committed aggravated identity theft when she forged the signature of company executives on fraudulent checks and when she submitted false invoices in the name of a third-party tax accountant to justify reimbursements to TROWER.

Finally, TROWER allegedly attempted to destroy and alter company records in the company’s accounting software to hide her embezzlement from law enforcement.

Wire fraud and destruction of records are both punishable by up to 20 years in prison.  Aggravated identity theft is punishable by a mandatory minimum two‑year prison term to run consecutive to any term imposed on other charges.

The charges contained in the indictment are only allegations.  A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The case is being investigated by the FBI.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney William Dreher.


Press contact for the U.S. Attorney’s Office is Communications Director Emily Langlie at (206) 553-4110 or

Updated February 5, 2021

Financial Fraud
Identity Theft