Bookkeeper accused of stealing from employer agrees to plead guilty

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An Indianapolis woman has been charged with wire fraud after federal prosecutors say she diverted more than $315,000 of her employer’s money to her own use.

The defendant, Erica Lee Howard, 30, has agreed to plead guilty to the federal felony charge, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Indiana said Friday.

The victim was Dukate Fine Remodeling, a Franklin-based construction company specializing in residential remodeling and masonry, according to Tim Horty, U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman.

According to court paperwork, Howard worked as the company’s office manager between January 2015 and May 2017, when she was terminated.

Starting in April 2015, the document says, Howard accessed the company’s bank accounts and credit cards on “hundreds” of occasions for her personal benefit, including online rent payments, personal credit card payments and online and in-person purchases.

Howard altered the company’s financial records to cover up evidence of her actions, prosecutors say, but the company discovered what had happened after one its checks bounced.

Prosecutors say the company’s owners had to lay off employees and liquidate their retirement savings to keep the business afloat.

Howard’s attorney is Joe Cleary, a federal public defender with Indiana Federal Community Defenders Inc. Attempts to reach Cleary Friday afternoon were unsuccessful.

Howard has prior convictions for fraud, forgery, and theft.

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