Former accounting manager accused of using embezzled funds on gambling, gaming

The former accounting manager of an Indianapolis-based business-services firm has been accused of embezzling more than $715,000 over a four-year period and spending the money on gambling and online shopping, among other things.

Christopher A. Price, 56, of Indianapolis was arrested Jan. 16 and charged with 13 counts of federal wire fraud. He made his initial court appearance Wednesday and was freed on bond.

Price’s attorney, federal public defender William Dazey, said he expects an indictment to be forthcoming.

The criminal complaint filed last week by the FBI does not name the victim, calling it “Company A.” IBJ has confirmed that the company is Indianapolis-based business services company Phoenix Data Corp.

Price worked as the company’s accounting and finance manager from 2009 until April 2019.

The complaint alleges that, starting in 2015, Price wrote himself a series of unauthorized checks and forged the company’s president’s name on them, then cashed or deposited those checks in his personal accounts.

To cover up his scheme, the complaint says, Price deleted the unauthorized payments in the company’s accounting system and created fictitious payments and check stubs for the same amounts, using the same check numbers.

The checks were usually in amounts of $5,000 or less, the complaint says, and Price wrote himself at least 151 unauthorized checks.

According to the complaint, more than half of the embezzled money was spent online for shopping, gaming, gambling and Second Life, a virtual world-building, role-playing activity. Price also used Western Union to wire more than $100,000 to an unnamed individual outside of the United States, the complaint says.

The company’s president discovered the unauthorized checks in April. The complaint says the company terminated Price after he admitted that he had written himself checks. Price also told the president that he was seeking treatment for a gambling problem.

After his termination, the complaint says, Price sent multiple emails to the company’s president to apologize for his actions. In one of the e-mails, Price proposed taking out a $750,000 life insurance policy that would name the president or the president’s children as beneficiaries.

In another e-mail, Price wrote, “I will do anything to stay out of Prison, I am begging you to please not file any criminal charges,” the complaint says.

IBJ was unable to reach Price Thursday morning, but a woman who identified herself as a family member said Price was not interested in talking about the case.

A phone message left with Phoenix Data Corp. on Thursday morning was not immediately returned.

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