An Anderson Community Schools bookkeeper has been charged by federal prosecutors with wire fraud and falsifying income tax returns based on allegations that she issued more than 300 checks to herself totaling almost $1 million over a five-year period.
The parties are seeking a plea agreement that would require Carla Burke to pay more than $1 million total in restitution to the school and the federal government, plus serve time in federal prison on the “low end” of the sentencing guidelines.
U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana Zachary Myers on Tuesday announced the charges against Burke, 62, of Anderson, who faces up to 20 years in federal prison if convicted.
Burke was the bookkeeper for Anderson Community School Corp.’s food service department. Her duties included maintaining financial records and issuing checks on behalf of the school system approved by her supervisor.
According to court documents, between Jan. 1, 2014, and June 30, 2019, Burke used her position to embezzle nearly $1 million from the school corporation. Rather than submitting legitimate vendor expenses, Burke allegedly issued 312 checks to herself from the school system totaling $976,773.29.
To conceal her theft, Burke allegedly devised a scheme in which she falsified records to make it appear that the payments were to a school vendor. She then used the stolen funds for her own personal expenditures, including gambling at several casinos, according to the charging information.
The information further alleges that Burke willfully failed to report about $225,381 in income she derived from the scheme on her tax returns and lied to federal agents when questioned about her conduct.
On Tuesday, Burke entered a petition to enter a plea of guilty and plea agreement, which was signed by both parties. Assistant Federal Defender Dominic Martin is listed as representing Burke.
In the combined petition, Burke agreed to plead guilty to one count of wire fraud and four counts of false income tax returns. The parties agreed that she will pay the $976,733.29 back to the school, plus an additional $141,190 in restitution to the IRS.
As for time in prison, the parties did not agree on a specific sentence, but the government “has agreed to recommend a sentence at the low end of the applicable Sentencing Guideline Range … .”
Indiana Southern District Court Judge James Patrick Hanlon is assigned to the case. No hearings are scheduled yet, according to the online docket