Ex-CFO who embezzled $1M to pay for expenses will serve 65 months in prison

Carrie N. Harris pleaded guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in January, authorities said.
Carrie N. Harris pleaded guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in January, authorities said.

Credit: File photo

Credit: File photo

A former chief financial officer for a Lithonia construction company who was accused of embezzling more than $1 million to pay for personal expenses has been sentenced to more than five years in prison, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Carrie N. Harris pleaded guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in January, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration said in a news release. She was sentenced to 65 months in prison and will also have to pay more than $1 million in restitution and undergo four years of supervised release, authorities said.

“Harris allegedly abused her position as the Chief Financial Officer for an employee-owned company, stealing more than $1 million to enrich herself,” U.S. Attorney BJay Pak said. “As thieves get more and more creative, employers must build in checks and balances to avoid turning over the ‘keys’ to the kingdom.”

Harris, a former CFO, treasurer and plan administrator for the Southern Pan Services Employee Stock Ownership Plan, made unauthorized disbursements from the organization’s bank accounts, the release said. From 2008 to 2013, she issued more than 100 checks to pay for purchases, which included almost $250,000 in flights, cruises and vacation expenses, more than $100,000 in cash withdrawals and more than $100,000 in retail purchases, the Department of Justice said.

Harris also “falsified entries on the company’s check register and ledger to disguise the checks and hide the payees,” the release said. Her actions negatively impacted the company’s stock and financial viability, and it shut down in 2015.

“Theft of funds from an employee stock ownership plan-owned company jeopardizes the retirement benefits of American workers,” Employee Benefits Security Administration Regional Director Isabel Culver said. “This case reaffirms the U.S. Department of Labor’s commitment to protect workers' benefits by identifying criminal activity and aggressively holding criminals accountable for their actions and responsible for restoring losses to the plan.”

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Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

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