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Published On: Tue, Dec 6th, 2016

Accountant Admits to Stealing $3 Million from Cargill Inc

New York accountant Diane Backis admitted on Monday to stealing at least $3.1 million from Cargill Inc., an agribusiness. Backis’ actions led to $25 million in losses to the company’s Port of Albany grain shipping operations, according to a report from the Associated Press.

Backis, who was accounting manager at Cargill’s grain elevators, carried out the embezzlement for more than a decade. She pled guilty to falsifying an income tax return and mail fraud.

According to U.S. Attorney Richard Hartunian, Backis diverted payments to her own personal accounts. Backis was responsible for creating invoices, drafting customer contracts, and processing payments.

“Her guilty plea sends a strong message that crime does not pay,” Hartunian said.

Backis admitted in court to sending invoices for animal feed at prices far lower than what Cargill paid. Her actions cost the company millions of dollars in losses. Customers were directed to make payments to her, effectively bypassing corporate controls.

photo Gerd Altmann via Pixabay

photo Gerd Altmann via Pixabay

The Justice Department estimates that Cargill suffered at least $25 million in losses.

“Charges for mail fraud and falsifying a tax return come with some serious consequences,” said a representative for the Jak CPA accounting firm.

As part of the plea deal, Backis admitted to stealing payments from Cargill totaling at least $3.1 million, and diverting those payments to her personal accounts.

She also admitted to filing a false individual income tax return in 2015. Backis declared just $61,208 in income, omitting more than $450,000 in stolen payments from customers.

While Backis was released without bail, she faces up to 20 years in prison. Her sentencing is scheduled for March 28. She also faces up to $250,000 in fines.

Backis has agreed to pay back Cargill a minimum of $3.5 million in restitution, and will forfeit her home in Athens, her pension benefits from Cargill, and an investment brokerage account.

Pete Stoddart, spokesman for Cargill said the company audited its trading systems and controls, and has conclude that the incident was an isolated one carried out by a single employee. None of Cargill’s customers were negatively affected, Stoddart said.

The investigation was carried out by the U.S. Attorney’s office, FBI, and IRS-Criminal Investigation.

Andrew. W. Vale, FBI Special Agent-in-charge, said in a statement that the theft was a sinister act.

“Mr. Backis repeatedly victimized her employer,” Vale said.

The IRS also issued a statement through the U.S. Attorney office, stating that the investigation is proof of the government’s resolve to prosecute financial crimes.

Author: Jacob Maslow

On the DISPATCH: Headlines  Local  Opinion

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