Pelham woman to plead guilty to wire fraud

BIRMINGHAM – A Pelham resident, 52-year-old Lucy Woods, has been charged by federal prosecutors with multiple counts of wire fraud for stealing from the Bessemer company where she had worked as a bookkeeper, according to the U.S. Department Justice.

Woods is accused of stealing more than $150,000 from her employer, Robert Warnock Co. Inc., which is a manufacturer’s representative that sells capital equipment for the oil and gas industry.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office filed a four-count information last week in U.S. District Court charging Woods with wire fraud. In conjunction with the charges, the government also filed a plea agreement with Woods. She must appear before a judge to enter a guilty plea.

According to a plea agreement signed by Woods, she must pay restitution in the amount of $156,921.96 to the victims determined by the Court at the time of her sentencing.

She was employed with the company beginning around February 2014 and continuing until February 2017 when she quit her job after she was confronted by the owners regarding fraudulent charges on the corporate credit card accounts, according to court documents. The company then conducted an analysis of its corporate credit card accounts.

As the bookkeeper, Woods was responsible for receiving mail, bills, invoices, entering data, closing orders, paying company bills, printing company checks and other various duties.

“This is another example of a case where an employee had access to financial information as part of her job duties and took great advantage of and violated her employer’s trust,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Robin Beardsley Mark. “Businesses should be able to trust their employees with confidential business information and when that trust is broken, the employee should be held accountable.”

While employed by Robert Warnock Co. Inc., Woods fraudulently charged personal expenses – such as a seven-day Carnival Cruise and payments to Verizon Wireless, Alabama Power, Alagasco, The Waterworks Board, Western Union Cash Advance, Nordstroms and Amazon – totaling more than $30,000 on a corporate credit card account.

She also forged, and made payable to herself, more than $120,000 in unauthorized checks from the corporate bank account, according to the charges and plea agreement.

According to court documents Woods was not an authorized signatory on any of the company’s corporate bank accounts and did not have physical possession of any of its corporate credit cards. However, she did have access to the credit card numbers and was authorized to use the credit card account numbers to make hotel reservations for the owners and other employees for business travel, and she was authorized to use the cards for business related expenditures.

“It was a further part of the scheme and artifice to defraud that defendant Woods would and did forge the name and signature of one of the Robert Warnock Co. authorized signatories on over 70 unauthorized corporate checks made payable to Woods,” court documents read.

Woods also altered the monthly credit card statements to conceal fraudulent transfers, according to court documents.

The maximum penalty for each count of wire fraud is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The FBI investigated the case in conjunction with the Bessemer Police Department. Mark is prosecuting the case.