ST. GEORGE — A local woman charged with federal wire and tax return fraud for bilked a locally-owned trucking company of nearly half a million dollars while working as their bookkeeper was sentenced Wednesday.
During a hearing held via video feed at the U.S. District Court in St. George Wednesday, 46-year-old Danielle Apadaca-Roberts of St. George appeared before U.S. District Judge David Nuffer for sentencing on three federal charges, including one count of wire fraud and two counts of making and subscribing a false return, charges she pleaded guilty to in July.
The government alleges the defendant devised a scheme to defraud a local trucking company where she worked as the payroll manager. The crime continued from February 2016 to June 2019 by using interstate wire transmissions — a scheme Roberts admittedly devised to defraud the company and obtain both money and property under fraudulent pretenses, according to documents filed in federal court.
The scheme involved creating fake expense reimbursements for truck drivers using the company’s accounting system. She diverted the funds into her own account by entering her bank account information into the system as the destination account for the reimbursement payments, rather than the money going into the truck drivers’ accounts.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tyler L. Murray appeared for the government and said the nature and circumstances surrounding the case involved calculated and repeated offenses that went on for more than two and a half years. He said the crimes went beyond the theft itself.
“This was a personal betrayal by the defendant who worked for a small company — the same company the defendant’s mother worked at for a number of years,” he said.
The attorney also argued that Roberts hid her actions from the company so she could continue the scheme, evidenced by the fact the defendant disabled the computer-generated email notifications that would have alerted the truck drivers to the fraudulent reimbursements taking place at the company.
Murray also said that because the trucking company is a small business, the losses were greater and hit them even harder by taking funds that could have been used to expand the business, pay for raises, or be used for other needs of the company.
“Instead, that money was stolen,” he said.
Roberts did all of this while “falsely playing the part of a loyal employee — someone who co-workers trusted and cared for as part of their tight-knit work family,” Murray said.
Murray recommended that Roberts be sentenced to serve 24 months in federal prison.
The defendant was represented by Wojceich Nitecki, Assistant Federal Public Defender, who argued that his client should be sentenced to five years probation, instead of a prison sentence, as this is Robert’s only criminal conviction.
Nitecki went on to say that statements claiming that Roberts confessed only because she got caught were false, adding the defendant confessed because it “was the right thing to do,” according to the defendant’s sentencing memorandum filed with the court.
Roberts had worked for the company for 10 years before she encountered unexpected and desperate circumstances, the attorney stated, and once she stole, Apadaca-Roberts did not know how to get out of the cycle she set into motion.
Additionally, the shame and publicity following her guilty plea, as well as the possibility of incarceration and other collateral consequences, have had a deterrent effect on the defendant, and “incarceration is not necessary for the punishment to be sufficient,” Nitecki noted.
Moreover, sentencing the defendant to probation makes sense in the case since making restitution to the company is critical, a task that cannot be completed if she is in custody.
In the end, Nuffer followed the government’s recommendation and sentenced Roberts to serve 24 months in federal prison. She was also ordered to forfeit any property derived from the proceeds of the scheme.
She was also ordered to pay more than $474,000 in restitution to the trucking company and another $87,190 to the IRS, payments that can be made once she is released from federal prison.
This report is based on statements from court records, attorneys or court proceedings and may not contain the full scope of findings. There was no record of the defendant being processed through the jail. As such, no booking photo is available.
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