November 1, 2019
By Caity Witucki
Contributing Editor, Fraud Friday
Fraud Friday– Bookkeeper Admits Stealing Over $300K From Physical Therapy Business
On September 10, 2019, Heather Nicole Gray, the former bookkeeper for Sutherland Physical Therapy and Sutherland Yoga Studio, pleaded guilty to Bank Fraud. It is estimated that the fraud totaled $321,854.
According to the stipulation of fact, in December 2017 Gray began to make automated clearinghouse (ACH) payments from two bank accounts belonging to Sutherland Physical Therapy. Gray used the money to pay-off credit card debt that she and her ex-husband had accrued. In August 2017, her scheme intensified when she began creating fraudulent checks, payable to herself or her ex-husband, using Sutherland Physical Therapy’s bank accounts.
“Heather Gray used her position as a bookkeeper for a locally owned business in Valdosta, Georgia to steal over $321,000 from her employer,” says United States Secret Service Agent Clint Bush. “Ms. Gray took advantage of those small business owners who provided her a job and betrayed those who gave her a position of trust within their company. The United States Secret Service remains committed to working with our local law enforcement partners in protecting our nation’s financial security, to include aggressively investigating and bringing to justice those responsible for using the banking system to defraud the taxpayers and small businesses who provide the majority jobs in this nation.”
At her hearing on September 10th, Gray admitted that she used several methods to hide her scheme. She removed pages of monthly bank account statements that showed unauthorized checks written to her and changed the “payee” field in the QuickBooks system from her name to a legitimate expense. From 2017 to 2018, Gray hid a total of 317 fraudulent payments enriching herself or her ex-husband. In all, the fraud totaled $321,854, including $4,971.62 from Sutherland Yoga Studio and $316,882.38 from Sutherland Physical Therapy.
“Ms. Gray went to great lengths to avoid detection, carefully hiding her tracks so she could continue pilfering from a locally-owned business, gravely betraying the owners’ trust,” says U.S. Attorney, Charlie Peeler. “Our office is focused on protecting small businesses from theft and the banking system from nefarious individuals who commit fraud. I want to commend the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office and the Secret Service for uncovering this crime and helping bring a measure of justice to the victims.”
Gray’s sentencing date has not been scheduled. She faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Department of Justice