A Washington woman who worked as a bookkeeper and office manager at a family-owned New Haven farm and trucking company, pleaded guilty earlier this month to defrauding her former employer and others, including the Berger Levee District, of over $700,000.
Christen Diane Schulte, 34, pleaded guilty to wire fraud, bank fraud and money laundering charges related to a scheme to defraud her former employer, several individuals associated with her former employer, the Berger Levee District, and several financial institutions.
U.S. District Judge Audrey G. Fleissig accepted the plea Aug. 3 and set Schulte’s sentencing date for Nov. 10, 2020.
Prosecutors say Schulte fraudulently charged more than 1,800 transactions, totaling more than $532,000 on company credit cards for personal expenditures between January 2018 and February 2020. She also caused American Express and FirstBank to issue her new credit cards in the name of her employers.
Schulte forged the signatures of the owner and several employees of the company on checks from several different bank accounts, including personal accounts of the employees. Several of these checks were made payable to Schulte, but some of them she made payable to the companies in order to conceal the lost funds related to her credit card scheme.
Other forged checks were drawn from a bank account held by the Berger Levee District of Franklin County. Schulte forged the treasurer’s signature of the levee district on checks that she made payable to her employer in order to conceal the lost funds related to her credit card scheme.
Prosecutors said Schulte used the funds to buy jewelry, a travel trailer, vehicles and for vacation travel.
“Christen Schulte exploited the position of trust she occupied at a small, family-owned business,” said Special Agent in Charge Richard Quinn of the FBI St. Louis Division.
Schulte faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the two wire fraud charges; a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine on the two bank fraud charges; and a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of not more than the greater of $250,000, or twice the amount laundered, on the money laundering charge.
Prosecutors said Schulte also will be required to pay restitution to those she defrauded.