After pleading guilty last year to counts of wire fraud and tax fraud, an Oklahoma woman has been sentenced to 45 months in federal prison and more than $1.2 million in restitution to her former employer and the IRS.
Naomi D. Walker, 55, Moore, admitted to abusing her responsibilities and authority as an employee of Star Pipe Service, Inc. As part of her duties, Walker had banking and corporate check writing responsibilities, and she admitted in federal court to misusing her access to corporate funds for personal gain.
Walker claims a gambling addiction fueled the embezzlement. As part of her guilty plea, she admitted to embezzling more than $900,000 and using the company credit card for personal purchases, including transactions at Lowe's and Walmart, as well as payments for utilities and cable service.
The embezzlement occurred over a span of several years, from September 2006 through April 2014.
Additionally, Walker pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return in 2009. She said that she reported her income at $42,613, but failed to report an additional $50,344 in personal income that year.
United States District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange sentenced Walker to 45 months in federal prison, beginning no later than April 8. Additionally, Walker must pay $940,419 in restitution to Star Pipe Service, Inc. She must also pay restitution to the IRS in the amount of $330,924.
Walker's story is not uncommon. Acts of embezzlement frequently have addiction at their root, whether that addiction is to drugs, gambling, or even compulsive shopping. Gambling is a common motive of embezzlement. Often, people believe that they are simply "borrowing" money from their employer, and they have every intention of repaying the money before it is ever discovered to be missing. Unfortunately, embezzlement often snowballs, and soon, the person who "borrowed" the money does not have the capability to repay it.
It is important to note that embezzlement laws do not have intent to repay as a mitigating factor. The misuse or unauthorized use of company funds is enough to warrant a criminal charge. Putting a personal purchase on the company credit card--even if you pay off the purchase with your own funds when the invoice comes due--would be considered a misuse of employer funds.
Embezzlement is a white collar crime that can be prosecuted as either a state crime or a federal crime depending upon the specific details of the case. Find out more about Oklahoma embezzlement laws and penalties here.