Bookkeeper gets 2 years in federal prison after stealing $300K, putting local company out of business – St George News
Composite image with background photo of the U.S. District Court in St. George, Utah, August 2019. Inserted photo by Enid Filoi Brown, booking photo, taken in Washington County February 8, 2019 | Booking photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News
ST. GEORGE – The woman who admitted stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from a local real estate company will spend two years in federal prison while the losses from the theft were so significant the company couldn’t recover and shut its doors – for always .
Enid Brown, 52, from St. George, booking photo posted in Washington County, Utah, February 8, 2019 | File photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News
During a video feed hearing in St. George’s U.S. District Court on Wednesday, St. George’s Enid Brown, 52, appeared before U.S. District Judge David Nuffer for convicting ReMax First Realty of a number of fraud cases. an indictment she pleaded guilty to in June.
The case stems from an investigation launched when a local real estate company found it was nearly $ 350,000 missing during an internal audit. Upon discovering the discrepancy, they met with Brown, who admitted taking the money, and said the theft started in March 2016 and lasted until January 2019.
The theft took place while Brown was working as the company’s office manager / controller, which gave her access to the company’s bank accounts, according to records filed in federal court.
Brown told her supervisors that she withdrew money from ATMs and used Venmo, a digital wallet service that allows users to make payments and share them with friends to send money to their children. She also admitted changing the company’s bank statements to hide the losses and mismatches between accounts and stealing about $ 150,000, the defendant estimated.
When the company found more than $ 374,000 missing through a review of bank records, they decided to go to the police, and the case was later picked up by federal prosecutors, where she was charged with wire fraud.
During Wednesday’s hearing, prosecutor Jay Winward said the case was either the fourth or fifth largest financial fraud reported in Washington County in recent years, involving embezzlement by company employees.
Winward also said treason was one of the most troubling aspects of the case as Brown “took money for their own gain from the people who cared for them and employed them”.
He went on to say The defendant used the money to travel to Fiji, go shopping, to pay for her children’s housing and tuition feesalong with other personal expenses from theft of money from business accounts. In addition, they have also taken funds in trust accounts, which are “public funds”. These measures would have harmed not only the real estate company, but also the damaged brokerage company and its reputation.
“She has to pay back every penny of the 359,000 plus,” said Winward.
Dell Pulsipher, a partner in ReMax First Realty, also spoke during the hearing and explained what happened to the company after the theft.
“What has happened to our company since that time is that it no longer exists,” said Pulsipher, adding that Brown’s crimes have ruined the partnership in which she won the full trust.
“But you abused it and took it away,” he said.
File photo of 5th District Courthouse, St. George, Utah, date not given | Photo by Andrew Pinckney, St. George News
The defendant’s actions also took money from his family, he said, including funds earmarked for his own son’s college education, adding that Brown used the stolen funds to send her own children to college when he and his wife “had to go to other sources for that. “
Another partner said that when the audit found that fiduciary funds, which were “public money,” were also drawn, the first task was to raise enough money to reconcile those accounts, which is next Had happened tomorrow. To do this, the group must borrow, use up their savings and raise money wherever they can to accomplish this.
John Ames, a CPA and ReMax partner, also turned to the court, saying that Brown’s actions were devious, planned and calculated. He also said the company was there for the defendant during her tenure and even helped when she faced financial challenges. Even when they did, he said to Brown, “They kept stealing from us.”
Ames went on to say that well before the discovery, the partners spent months going into their own pockets to reconcile the accounts and keep the business alive, unaware that the financial shortfalls were the direct result of the defendant’s actions were. The defendant “stole from the company all along.”
Worse still, he said the defendant was aware of the financial burden on the company as it was present at the meetings where these issues were discussed. Even then, he said, the defendant continued to use the company accounts as “her personal piggy bank.”
In conclusion, he said that the partnership, which has existed for more than 20 years, was destroyed after the theft and in the end the business was lost.
“Shame on you – forever,” he said.
The defendant’s daughter, Liala Brown, also turned to the court and spoke to the partners: “On behalf of our family, I would like to extend our deepest apologies to ReMax First Realty for this terrible ordeal.”
Going on that the situation almost destroyed her family, she added, “We have been completely deceived and blinded by my mother’s actions.”
She also said that her mother is learning and growing, more transparent in her actions, and has done many good things, adding that her family is healing after the many hardships they have endured over the past year. She concluded by requesting that her mother be sentenced to “some type of house arrest” in order to be closer to her family.
Brown also reached out to the court, saying she accepts responsibility for her wrongful acts, adding, “I am sorry and humiliated for what I did.”
She also said she deeply regrets the partners for the damage their actions have caused.
The defendant went on to say that part of her Polynesian culture included deep love and loyalty to family, traits that were partly responsible for distorting her judgment and that her actions were driven by her desire to help others.
She also said she was fully responsible for ReMax’s losses and was “obliged to repay the company and get it back in order”.
Prior to the sentencing, Nuffer commented on this particular crime as well as a number of other recent cases where employees have been defrauded and many companies have suffered significant losses. “It’s very worrying to me,” he said.
2019 file photo of the interior of the 5th District Court where federal hearings are held, St. George, Utah, August 2019 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News
“This is one of many egregious financial crimes that I see in the St. George area,” said Nuffer, adding that many are committed by trusting people who are employed by companies that treat them like family.
The ramifications go way beyond this case, he said. “These crimes are affecting the entire community.”
He then sentenced Brown to 24 months in prison and three years probation after her release. She was also instructed to surrender to the U.S. Marshal’s Office or federal prison facility by February 12 at noon.
Nuffer also recommended moving Brown to the Federal Correctional Institution in Victorville, California, which is located approximately 85 miles northeast of Los Angeles.
Brown was also asked to repay $ 329,262 to the company. While in detention, she must pay a percentage of her income while in detention, the judge said, as well as a percentage of the money she receives from outside sources while in jail.
Also, since the defendant included donations to her church as part of the budget presented to the court and one that Winward prosecutors strongly objected to, the judge forbade the defendants from making charitable contributions until their debts were paid – including any donations to their church.
The defendant was ordered to forfeit any income or assets obtained through its illegal conduct or that helped facilitate the system.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.
Cody Blowers grew up in South San Francisco, California. A 2013 graduate of Colorado Technical University, Cody earned her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a minor in paralegal studies. During her studies, she discovered that writing was her real passion and she is committed to credible, integrated reporting. Cody joined St. George News in 2015, and when she’s not busy keeping up with the news, she’s generally on the hunt for her young granddaughter, Kali.