Former CEO pleads guilty to embezzling more than $15 million from her employer | USAO-WDNC

CHARLOTTE, NC — Donna Osowitt Steele, 52, of Taylorsville, North Carolina, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge David S. Cayer today and pleaded guilty to wire fraud, allegedly misappropriating more than $15 million dollars from his former employer, Dena J. King, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, announced.

Robert R. Wells, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Charlotte Division, joins U.S. Attorney King in making today’s announcement.

According to plea documents filed and confessions made by Steele in court, from at least 2013 to January 2020, the defendant executed an extensive scheme to defraud her employer, identified in court documents as Victim Company A, a private subsidiary. a US-based foreign company that manufactures carbide products. The owners of victim company A and its parent company reside abroad. Court records show Steele embezzled more than $15 million from Victim Company A and used the money to support a business run by her and her family and to fund an extravagant lifestyle.

As Steele admitted in court today, she was employed by Victim Company A from 1999 until January 2020. Initially Steele worked in the shipping department and was promoted over the next 20 years to various positions within the company, including the position of General Manager. Officer (CEO), which she held until she was fired in January 2020. While serving as Vice President and then CEO, Steele used her position to embezzle funds from victimized Company A in a number of ways, including through fraudulent credit card purchases. company credit, company checks, Quickbooks transactions and wire transfers. For example, court documents filed show that Steele used company credit cards to pay $6 million for personal expenses, including making purchases at high-end retail stores, paying for lodging in a luxury hotel and buying tickets to events, to buy expensive jewelry, to pay for family weddings, and to make purchases related to Opulence by Steele, a luxury clothing and boutique company that the defendant has founded in 2013.

In addition to the credit card purchases, Steele admitted to issuing and causing to be issued approximately 98 checks totaling more than $2.8 million to Victim Company A’s bank accounts, which Steele deposited into his personal bank account. Additionally, Steele caused 127 fraudulent and unauthorized wire transfers to be executed as Quickbooks transactions, transferring over $4.7 million from victim Company A’s bank accounts to his personal bank account. During the same period, Steele executed at least 117 fraudulent and unauthorized bank transfers, totaling more than $2.2 million, from the bank accounts of Victim Company A to the defendant’s personal bank account, which she then used for his personal benefit, in particular to fund a personal account. real estate fence.

According to the filings, as a result of Steele’s embezzlement, Victim Company A experienced several difficulties, including suppliers withholding products from the company for non-payment or late payment, customers complaining of having been put on credit hold despite paying their bills on time, employees whose company credit card was declined while attempting to use it for legitimate business expenses, employees who did not were not paid on time and/or employees whose insurance was canceled without warning. Steele admitted that, in an effort to cover up the fraudulent scheme, she limited communications and interactions between the employees and owners of Victim Company A and monitored the communications that were occurring, she convinced the employees that the owners company were to be feared and lied to employees about the true nature of victim company A’s financial difficulties.

Steele pleaded guilty to a fraudulent embezzlement scheme, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Following the entry of her guilty plea, Steele was released on bail. A sentencing date has not been set.

In making today’s announcement, US Attorney King thanked the FBI for its investigation of the case.

Assistant United States Attorney Maria Vento of the United States Attorney’s Office in Charlotte is prosecuting the case.

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