An Indianapolis woman has agreed to plead guilty to fraud in what prosecutors say was a scheme that over two years nearly bankrupted her employer.
The plea was announced Friday by U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler of the Southern District of Indiana, who said Erica Howard, 30, siphoned funds from a family-owned construction company in Franklin.
Howard — who has prior fraud, forgery and theft convictions — has agreed to plead guilty to the federal felony wire fraud charge.
The victim was Dukate Fine Remodeling, a Franklin-based construction company specializing in residential remodeling and masonry, according to Tim Horty, U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman.
According to court paperwork, Howard worked as the company’s office manager between January 2015 and May 2017, when she was terminated.
Just months after starting as bookkeeper, Howard allegedly began diverting company money to herself. According to the federal charges, she abused her access to company accounts online to pay over a dozen personal credit cards and buy electronics and other items on Amazon.
Entrusted with keeping the company books, Howard allegedly concealed her fraud and never noted her personal uses of company funds. Each year, she delivered falsified books to the company’s accountant, along with a set of phony bank statements that she had manipulated to make the numbers match.
Howard’s fraud was finally discovered when a company check bounced. By then, she had allegedly funneled more than $315,000 in company money to herself. The company’s owners were forced to lay off workers and liquidate retirement savings to keep the business afloat.
After an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Franklin Police Department, Howard agreed to plead guilty.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Nick Linder, who prosecuted this case for the government, Howard faces up to 20 years in federal prison and an order to pay restitution for the full amount she stole.