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Federal judge sets Dec. 8 sentencing for woman guilty of $238,052 theft

Woman enters plea

A Colson woman will be sentenced December 8 in U.S. District Court for stealing nearly a quarter of a million dollars over a six-year period from the coal company that employed her.

Sherry F. Thomas, of Buck Creek, pleaded guilty late last week to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, admitting that she used her boss’s signature stamp to write checks and make transfers to herself from the company accounts of Carbon River Coal totaling $238,052.23.

According to a federal indictment, Thomas was the office manager and bookkeeper for Carbon River Coal Corp. at Montgomery Creek Road in Vicco. As part of her job, Thomas prepared payrolls and checks, and was supposed to pay company and payroll taxes to the Internal Revenue Service.

Instead, the indictment says, beginning in January 2012 and running through November 21, 2018, Thomas failed to pay the payroll taxes and instead wrote 173 checks to herself, forging the name of Carbon River Coal Vice President Jerry Wells by use of his signature stamp to authorize payment. The indictment says that in order to execute the scheme, she also made at least four mobile deposits totaling $9,731.52, however in exchange for her guilty plea, the government agreed to dismiss three of those four counts.

Under the plea agreement, Thomas admitted to a transfer of $889.25 from the Carbon River Coal Corp. bank account at People’s Bank and Trust in Hazard to her own account at Whitaker Bank, and admitted that she had used Wells’s signature stamp on the transfer.

The wire fraud charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison with three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. The remaining count caries a maximum sentence of two years to be served consecutively to any other crime, one year of supervised release and a $250,000 fine, plus a mandatory special assessment of $200 to be paid as the court directs her.

Although those are the maximum penalties, federal sentencing guidelines are complicated. Unless Thomas commits another crime, obstructs justice or violates a court order, the U.S. Attorney has agreed to decrease the offense level by two levels. If the judge’s calculation of offense level is 16 or higher, the government will recommend reducing the level by one additional level. It was not clear how that would affect the maximum term.

Also as part of the agreement, Thomas will repay all of the money.

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