The former controller of the Baierl Acura dealership pleaded guilty today in federal court to a charge of wire fraud in a $10.2 million embezzlement case, United States Attorney David J. Hickton announced.
Patricia K. Smith, 57, of Cranberry Township, waived prosecution by indictment and entered a plea of guilty to one count of wire fraud before Senior United States District Judge Gustave Diamond, according to a news release from Hickton's office.
The court was advised that from Dec. 2004 until July 28, 2011, Smith embezzled more than $10 million from her employer, Baierl Acura of Wexford. The money paid for Smith's extravagant lifestyle.
Diamond scheduled sentencing for 10 a.m. May 9.
The law provides for a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 or both. Under federal sentencing guidelines, the sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offense and the criminal history, if any, of the defendant.
"This is an unfortunate case of an extraordinary fraud perpetrated on a well-respected local business," said Hickton. "The only explanation appears to be simple greed."
The Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted the investigation that led to the Smith's prosecution.
Smith used her position as controller to carry out ACH transfers of large amounts of money from Baierl bank accounts to her personal bank accounts on more than 800 occasions.
Smith then used the money for extravagant purchases benefitting her and her family and friends.
According to information presented to the court, among the items Smith purchased were:
- $1.8 million billed to American Express for private jet charters, travel to seven countries in Europe and four islands in the Caribbean;
- $44,500 for four club-level tickets and hospitality at Super Bowl XLV;
- $32,500 for a luncheon for six people that Food Network star Ina Garten prepared at her barn in East Hampton, NY;
- $5,000 for "The Vatican Package," which included Mass in Papal Audience with VIP seating, air fare for four, VIP tour of the Vatican Museum with a private tour guide and a private tour of the Sistine Chapel with family before it was open to the public;
- $2,500 for a Phantom of the Opera experience, including costume fitting, wig fitting, an escort onstage during the Hannibal Opera sequence and four seats for the performance.
As part of this case, the government is seeking the forfeiture of items including:
- Four residences — three in Pennsylvania and one in Georgia;
- 10 vehicles, including three Acuras, four Hondas and a Mustang convertible;
- Stocks, jewelry, cash, gold coins and personal property, including flat-screen televisions, a mink coat and a baby grand piano.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stephen R. Kaufman and Lee J. Karl are prosecuting this case.