Former Estridge Homes controller sentenced to 21 months in prison

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The former controller for Carmel-based Estridge Homes has been sentenced to 21 months in federal prison after he pleaded guilty to diverting more than $340,000 of company money into his own bank accounts.

Thomas Carter, 30, of Fishers was sentenced Friday in federal court in Indianapolis for one charge of bank fraud. Judge William Lawrence also ordered Carter to serve two years of supervised release after his prison term and to pay restitution of $340,597 to Estridge Homes.

Carter was the controller for the homebuilder from February 2013 until May 2016. He was charged in October 2016 and agreed to plead guilty in the case in March.

The judge recommended Carter spend his sentence in a prison as close to Indianapolis as possible with the lowest security available.

Carter faced as many as 30 years in prison, but prosecutors recommended a sentence at the low end of the guidelines. Carter had no criminal history.

According to court documents, Carter began diverting money to his own accounts from company funds only a month after he was hired by Estridge. On nearly 50 occasions, Carter paid himself from the company accounts but falsely designated the payee in the company’s Quickbooks software as a vendor.

When at least two of Estridge’s bank accounts became overdrawn in March 2016, Carter told the bank that money would be coming via two Wells Fargo wire transfers totaling more than $1 million. Those wire transfers did not exist, court documents say.

Eventually, bank officials contacted company owner Paul Estridge Jr. about the overdrafts, which alerted him to the fraud.

Attorney Steven Allen, who represents Carter, asked the court to avoid incarceration in the case because the defendant had no prior record, is a low risk for recidivism and has sought help through Debtors Anonymous for his compulsive unsecured debt issues.

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