Plea deal reached in bank fraud case involving Massachusetts seafood company bookkeeper

By

Paula Dobbyn

Published on
January 11, 2021

A bookkeeper who embezzled nearly USD 600,000 (EUR 493,204) from her former employer, a New Bedford, Massachusetts, U.S.A.-based fishing and seafood processing company, will spend up to three years in prison under a plea agreement reached with federal prosecutors.

The company Howland embezzled from went unnamed in court papers and the news release. However, online searches associate her with M & B Sea Products Inc. of New Bedford.

Kara Howland, 37, admitted in court papers that she embezzled some USD 598,241.52 (EUR 491,758.68) from the seafood company by writing unauthorized checks, filing a false tax return in 2018, and failing to pay taxes on the stolen money. Howland used the money to pay her credit card bills. Between January 2016 and December 2019, Howland forged the company president’s signature on checks before mailing them to banks in North Carolina and Pennsylvania, according to court documents. Howland placed false entries in the company’s internal accounting system “to make it appear as though the checks had been written for a valid business purpose.”

The charges were brought by the office of U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Andrew E. Lelling. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristen A. Kearney with the Securities, Financial, and Cyber Fraud Unit prosecuted the case. Howland is expected to spend 18 to 36 months in federal prison followed by two years of supervised release. A condition of her release stipulates she must “participate in a program for gambling addition counseling.” Howland must pay USD 180,863 (EUR 148,679) to the Internal Revenue Service.

In signing the 1 January deal, Howland said she was entering it “freely, voluntarily, and knowingly because I am guilty of the offenses to which I can pleading guiding, and I believe this plea agreement is in my best interest.”

Howland could have faced of up to 30 years in prison, five years of supervised release and a fine of up to USD 1 million (EUR 822,053) for the bank fraud charge. Filing a false tax return can result in for up to three years in prison, as well as a year of supervised release and a USD 100,000 (EUR 82,205) fine. A federal district court judge must approve the plea deal and will sentence Howland. A plea hearing has yet to be scheduled, according to a 6 January news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Besides Lelling’s office, the IRS’s criminal investigations unit in Boston was involved in the case as well as the Providence, Rhode Island office of the U.S. Secret Service, the release said. New Bedford police assisted.

Photo courtesy of Bill Perry/Shutterstock

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