Paralegal Gets Three-Year Federal Prison Term for Redirecting Firm Funds

Let’s add “redirecting” to that list of fancy verbs that really means stealing money that doesn’t belong to you.

Honestly, it’s sad to be commenting about a paralegal going to jail after working for more than a decade for an Atlanta real estate firm as a closing paralegal and database manager.

Also, in these news accounts of paralegals gone bad, we almost never get the individuals’ motivation for destroying their own careers and credibility, and risking the loss of their freedom. Maybe it’s simple greed, or maybe it’s mounting medical bills – but does it matter? No doubt it’s mistaking accessible business bank accounts for easy money.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that Ola Suzanne Stowers plead guilty in April 2011 to bank fraud and aggravated identity theft charges, and was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Atlanta last week to three years in federal prison.

According to the AJC article, Stevens “redirected” $260,000 from her employer’s escrow account into a fraudulent account, sending the statements to her own address and forging a partner’s signature to make withdrawals. The amount of the transfers is rather shocking:

In June 2008, Stowers transferred $176,946.79 from the firm’s escrow account into the fraud account, pushing its balance to $194,007. Less than a year later, the balance was down to $959.

Low on funds, Stowers moved $82,727.42 in checks made payable to the law firm into the BOA account in April 2010. Again, she forged the signature of one of the firm’s partners to withdraw money from the account.

“Low on funds”? I guess so, after burning through $193,000 and some change in less than a year.

Source:  Atlanta Journal Constitution

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