An executive assistant’s personal use of corporate credit accounts resulted in a federal charge of wire fraud. United States v. Coulman, No. 3:14-cr-02424, information (S.D. Cal., Aug. 27, 2014). Prosecutors alleged that the defendant used corporate credit cards to purchase vacations, electronics, clothing, and other goods, as well as attempting to conceal her activities from her employer. Prosecutors got a bit creative, alleging a connection between the defendant’s scheme and interstate commerce in order to establish federal jurisdiction. The defendant waived indictment and entered a guilty plea on the day federal prosecutors filed the information. The court sentenced the defendant in August 2015 to 21 months in prison and ordered her to pay the amount she was accused of misappropriating—nearly $1 million—in restitution.
According to the government’s information, the defendant began working for Hewlett-Packard (HP) in 2000, and she remained there until 2012. She worked as the executive assistant to one of the company’s vice presidents during the last four years of her employment. Part of that job involved “review[ing] monthly credit card statements and submit[ting] the related expense reports, receipts, and supporting documentation to HP program administrators.” Id. at 1-2. She also responded to questions from program administrators about expenditures and expense reports. Prosecutors noted that she had access to the vice president’s email account, “which included the ability to delete emails received by, and send emails from [that] account.” Id. at 2.
Prosecutors described a scheme by which the defendant used corporate credit cards for multiple unauthorized expenses, including over $350,000 for a business operated by her brother, more than $100,000 at a “resort spa,” id. at 3, airfare and hotels for trips to Hawaii and Europe, and purchases at the Apple Store and several high-end department stores. The total amount of fraudulent expenditures, according to the FBI, exceeded $954,000.