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Ex-drilling company employee charged with conspiracy, tax fraud

A former employee of a western Pennsylvania natural gas drilling company is accused of helping a company executive commit embezzlement. The defendant is also charged with tax fraud and mail fraud. Prosecutors claim the conspiracy went on for several years. If convicted of these white collar charges, the woman could face decades in prison.

The accused woman used to work as the controller of Falcon Drilling LLC of Indiana, Pennsylvania. State officials claim that starting in February 2004, she began writing and forging checks from Falcon's petty cash account made out to the company's then-chief operating officer. The checks allegedly ranged from $2,000 to $60,000 and totaled nearly $1 million dollars until the COO was arrested in February. The female defendant covered up the checks by creating false invoices for supplies and manipulating accounting records.

She also is said to have received around $557,000 in checks given her by the COO. Prosecutors also claim she filed false tax returns from 2008 through 2010. All told, she could face a maximum of 74 years' incarceration if she is convicted of three charges of mail fraud, three charges of tax fraud and one count of conspiracy. She is charged in federal court, though the investigation against her began on the county level.

It is not clear whether the COO pressured her to participate in the alleged fraud. Depending on what evidence the woman's defense attorney gathers, coercion could be a factor at trial, given that the COO was the defendant's superior and may have made her continued employment a factor.

Source: York Daily Record, "Ex-controller charged in Pa. drilling embezzlement," Joe Mandak, Dec. 10, 2012

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