A Washington woman who pleaded guilty to wire fraud, bank fraud and money laundering charges in August was sentenced in federal court in St. Louis last month, according to electronic court records.
U.S. District Court Judge Audrey G. Fleissig sentenced Christen Diane Schulte to 80 months in federal prison on each of the five counts. The sentences are to run concurrently.
Schulte faced 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 $250,000, or twice the amount laundered, on the money laundering charge.
According to court documents, Schulte was a former bookkeeper and office manager of a farm and trucking business based in New Haven. Between January 2018 and February 2020, Schulte knowingly and intentionally devised and executed a scheme to defraud, and to obtain money from, her former employer and others by means of material false and fraudulent representations. She then, without the knowledge or authority of her former employer, diverted funds for her own personal use. The total loss from the scheme is approximately $727,000.
As part of her scheme, Schulte used the companies’ credit cards for personal expenditures. She also had American Express and FirstBank issue her new credit cards in the names of the companies. According to federal investigators, she charged more than 1,800 transactions on these cards. These transactions totaled more than $532,000.
Schulte forged the signatures of the owner and several employees of the companies on checks from several different bank accounts, including personal accounts of the employees. Several of these checks were made payable to Schulte, but she made some of them 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 and vehicles and for vacation travel.
Judge Fleissig ordered Schulte pay $587,140.46 in restitution.
Schulte must begin making restitution payments while in federal prison, according to a payment plan outlined in electronic court records. The federal government will collect 50 percent of any money available to Schulte during her imprisonment, and following her release, she will be required to make monthly installments of at least $350 per month or at least 10 percent of her gross earnings.
Schulte’s post-prison payments must begin within 30 days of her release.
In her sentencing, Judge Fleissig also recommended that Schulte be “evaluated for participation in the Residential Drug Abuse Program and mental health treatment.” She also recommended Schulte be enrolled in the prison’s Financial Responsibility Program.
A photo of Schulte was not available by press time.