SPOKANE, Wash. - A former Greater Spokane County Meals on Wheels bookkeeper has been sentenced to three years in federal prison for embezzling nearly $100,000 from the non-profit.
U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington William Hyslop announced that 59-year-old Michelle "Susan" Ferrell of Spokane Valley, was sentenced Thursday after pleading guilty to wire fraud back in February.
Ferrell was sentenced to a 36-month term of imprisonment, to be followed by a three-year term of court supervision after being released from federal prison. Senior U.S. District Judge Robert Whaley also ordered Ferrell to pay restitution, and forfeiture of $99,871.
Court proceedings found while employed at Meals on Wheels, Ferrell used the organization's funds and bank accounts to pay for her unauthorized personal expenses including mortgage, utility, and property taxes on her residence. She also electronically transferred funds to herself and her businesses.
Ferrell concealed the thefts by making false and misleading entries in the Meals on Wheels accounting system, creating the appearance that she was paying for legitimate operating expenses of the organization. She stole in excess of $99,000 in Meals on Wheels funds over a five-year period.
Ferrell also defrauded the U.S. Department of Treasury and IRS, as she was responsible for witholding and paying Meals on Wheels' quarterly payroll taxes to the IRS. Part of her scheme included Ferrell witholding payroll taxes but not remitting all the taxes to the IRS.
She also failed to file the organization's quarterly payroll tax returns for certain quarters, and made false entries in the internal accounting records representing the payroll taxes were paid in full. This fraudulent process ensured Ferrel would have sufficient funds in the Meals on Wheels account to cover personal expenses.
“The sentence imposed today holds Ferrell accountable for abusing her position of trust as a bookkeeper for Meals on Wheels, a charitable organization that provides critical services to so many vulnerable people in our community," Hyslop said. "By lining her pockets, Ferrell put herself above the needs of others. I commend the excellent work done by the FBI in investigating this case. The United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington will continue to work closely with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute white collar crime and fraud.”
The sentencing for Ferrell had been delayed after proceedings in July, where some of Ferrell's former co-workers spoke to a judge. Ferrell was known as “Susan” to her coworkers, who say her “name” is one of many lies she told while bookkeeping at Greater Spokane County Meals On Wheels:
“A thief with a smiling face, who pretends to serve others.”
“If she can get away with it, who else is next?”
The case was investigated by the FBI. Ferrell was immediately taken into custody to begin serving her sentence.