August 14, 2020
By Bob Coleman
Editor, Fraud Friday
Bookkeeper Gets 41 Months in Jail for Ripping off Employer
The former bookkeeper for a Valdosta, Georgia physical therapy business Heather Gray, 33, was sentenced last week to 41 months in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of bank fraud. Heather was also ordered to pay $321,000 in restitution.
“Our office will protect small businesses and banks from theft and fraud by pursuing white collar criminals, and seeking justice on behalf of victims,” says Charlie Peeler, the U.S. Attorney. “The victims in this case trusted this defendant to keep their books. The defendant betrayed that trust by stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Thanks to the excellent work of the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office and the Secret Service, this defendant is held accountable for her conduct and faces years in federal prison.”
“The United States Secret Service along with our local law enforcement partners remain committed to aggressively investigating those responsible for stealing from our local business communities in South Georgia,” says Clint Bush, Resident Agent-In-Charge of the Albany, Georgia Secret Service Office. “These types of crimes have a far reaching affect not only on the small business owners but also on their employees and families who rely on these jobs to bring income and money into our local communities.”
Very shortly after beginning work with Sutherland Physical Therapy, Inc. in December 2014, Ms. Gray began to make automated payments via the internet and mobile access from two bank accounts belonging to SPT without authorization. Funds were used to pay-off her credit cards.
In August 2017, her scheme intensified when she began creating fraudulent checks using SPT bank accounts, payable to herself or her ex-husband.
She used several methods to hide her scheme, including removing pages of the monthly bank account statement that showed unauthorized checks written to her from the office and changing the “payee” field in the QuickBooks system from her name to a named legitimate expense to hide the true payee, herself.
Ms. Gray made a total of 317 fraudulent payments enriching herself or her ex-husband from SPT and SYS accounts until her fraud was discovered in April 2018. In all, the fraud totaled $321,854.