Ex-employee charged with stealing $183,000 from firm
A Burnsville woman who worked for a local shipping company is accused of stealing $183,000 from the company over nearly five years.
Laura Michelle Schwartz, 36, of Burnsville, was charged June 15 with 10 counts of felony theft by swindle.
She’s accused of initiating 182 fraudulent transactions from June 2007 to January 2012 that funneled funds from the freight-shipping company to her personal bank accounts.
The company, which was located in Eagan until October 2011, contracts with truckers and trucking companies to provide freight shipments for its clients.
“This is a major financial crime that resulted in significant loss during difficult economic times for this business,” Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said in a news release. “This is the 23rd major economic crime exceeding $50,000 in loss prosecuted in Dakota County since 2006.”
Schwartz started as a clerical support worker at the company and worked in the Eagan office until 2005, when she was allowed to work at home, according to the criminal complaint.
Her duties included billing and collecting from clients, bank reconciliations and basic bookkeeping.
A recent company audit revealed suspicious transactions linked to an employee with Schwartz’s password, according to the complaint.
The company discovered that invoices from old reconciled and closed accounts were being reopened and paid years later, the complaint said.
Company records showed that the employee reopened closed accounts numerous times by altering vendor codes. Payments to carriers were arranged to be paid via check or electronically.
But many of the checks issued were sent to addresses that didn’t belong to the carriers whose names were on the checks. And the electronic payments were routed to two bank accounts belonging to Schwartz, the complaint said.
Burnsville police determined that from June 2007 to January 2012, about 82 checks and 100 electronic payments wound up in Schwartz’s accounts, the complaint said.
She allegedly used the money to pay for personal items such as utilities, legal fees, child care, children’s athletics, schools, automotive services and health care.
Questioned by police on April 9, she declined to provide a statement.
Schwartz made her first court appearance June 15. Bail was set at $25,000 with conditions or $50,000 without conditions. Her next appearance is on Oct. 2 in Hastings.