Bookkeeper stole $1M from SC business: feds

Karen Rhett was the bookkeeper at a South Carolina true estate company for the better part of 25 years, in accordance to federal court docket paperwork.

She was also embezzling from it, prosecutors reported.

A federal judge sentenced the 59-yr-old to 3 several years in prison on Monday, April 4, after she pleaded guilty to felony costs final year. She was also requested to shell out 3 a long time on supervised release and fork out restitution.

Rhett’s protection legal professional did not immediately react to McClatchy News’ request for remark on April 6. But he mentioned in courtroom filings that she took comprehensive accountability for the theft immediately after the FBI confirmed up at her household in Mount Enjoyable, just outdoors of Charleston, in 2020.

“Painfully, and with deep sorrow, she admits that she took gain of her place of trust as a bookkeeper,” claimed George Rutledge DuRant, who represented Rhett. “She admits that her theft was enduring and started long in the past with a relatively smaller amount of money of income. It escalated with time. The additional she stole, the more challenging it grew to become to prevent.”

In accordance to courtroom files, Rhett labored for Simmons Realty Corporation, a genuine estate agency operate by David and Elizabeth Simmons.

“It took three lengthy decades of tiresome investigative operate by the family members and a forensic accountant (previous IRS Particular Agent) to uncover this advanced and complicated fraudulent plan,” Bart Daniel, who represented the Simmons, explained to McClatchy Information in a assertion. “The Simmons Spouse and children is relieved that justice has finally been served.”

Prosecutors said Rhett oversaw the company’s accounting and small business data and was “in a posture of trust” when she allegedly commenced siphoning off money.

She is accused of transferring dollars to herself, frequently relocating the money between other business entities before it at some point landed in her account. Rhett also manufactured up business invoices for bogus expenditures and wrote checks to herself right before recording the payments as respectable, the governing administration mentioned.

The Simmons inevitably fired her, and FBI agents visited Rhett at property in July 2020, courtroom files point out.

In accordance to her lawyer, Rhett confessed to the embezzlement the next thirty day period and started cooperating with federal investigators.

“It should be recognized that Karen created the final decision to confess solely on her personal and rapidly, within a person week of the F.B.I. knocking upon the door of her residence,” her lawyer stated.

Rhett bought the 4,000-square-foot dwelling she shared with her partner and daughter for $982,000 in December 2020, according to true estate listings. Her attorney said she wrote a check for restitution totaling $640,633 and submitted it to the court in January 2021.

Rhett was charged by criminal info and pleaded responsible to fees of wire fraud and earning false statements, court docket files clearly show. Her legal professional explained she was fired from her new career at a holistic nourishment store when information of the guilty plea broke in April 2021.

Rhett subsequently commenced a enterprise, Cupcake Bouquets by Karen, by means of which she bakes and sells “delicious and inventive, mainly floral in layout, cupcakes,” her law firm claimed.

From August 2021 to February 2022, he stated, she has offered $3,648 worthy of of cupcakes.

“Karen is convinced that Cupcake Bouquets by Karen, LLC would afford her the indicates by which she can make significant payments towards full restitution,” her attorney reported in sentencing paperwork. “In conditions of using on new orders and creating this business enterprise as it stands now, Karen has been very careful not to take on too lots of new orders or to expand much too swiftly as her imminent upcoming is, at most effective, uncertain.”

Rhett’s attorney experienced questioned the judge to sentence her to a time period of dwelling confinement, pointing in portion to her struggles with melancholy since the costs arrived to light and a latest prognosis of Fibromyalgia.

He also reported it is essential for Rhett to be dwelling with her 21-year-aged daughter, who has reportedly struggled with her have mental overall health soon after a quick-lived profession as a singer-songwriter. According to sentencing documents, her daughter formerly sang at “various east coast faculty gymnasiums and overall performance halls with a message in opposition to bullying” as a teenager.

Rhett submitted six letters of help penned by her therapist and several family users also calling for leniency.

“Karen has experienced the penalties of a self-imposed sentence, disgrace and guilt just before her mates and household and the overall local community,” her attorney stated. “She has endured the loss of just about her just about every possession and she has suffered the continual agony of darkish depression. She has been punished seriously previously.”

At sentencing, the decide encouraged Rhett provide her prison sentence at FPC Alderson in West Virginia so that she can receive professional medical treatment method. As soon as she is launched, the judge barred her from getting any get hold of with the victims.

The amount of money of restitution she owes is listed as “TBD” in the court docket docket.

This tale was initially revealed April 6, 2022 6:33 PM.

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Hayley Fowler is a reporter at The Charlotte Observer masking breaking and real-time information throughout North and South Carolina. She has a journalism diploma from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and earlier worked as a legal reporter in New York Town right before becoming a member of the Observer in 2019.