Former SerVaas Laboratories employee sentenced in $772K fraud case

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A former employee of Indianapolis-based SerVaas Laboratories Inc. has been sentenced to 27 months in prison after admitting to defrauding the company out of nearly $772,000 over an eight-year period.

Sandra M. Urich, 54, of Indianapolis pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and was sentenced Friday by U.S. District Court Judge James R. Sweeney II.

According to the charging document in the case, Urich started working for SerVaas in 1995, and her job involved processing customer orders and credit card payments. Her fraud scheme is believed to have begun in 2011 and continued until January 2019. She was terminated that month after the company discovered her activities.

“She was a long-term employee that betrayed everyone’s trust here. It was disappointing and sad,” SerVaas Chief Financial Officer Matthew Selig told IBJ.

SerVaas manufactures the famous Bar Keepers Friend line of cleaning products. Its corporate offices are near Guion Road and 52nd Street on the northwest side.

According to court documents, Urich committed the fraud by accessing actual customer orders and then inputting fake returns or refunds for those orders, directing those payments into her personal bank accounts. Urich took several steps to conceal her activities, including eliminating records of the orders associated with the false refunds.

Over time, prosecutors say, Urich processed about 990 fraudulent returns or refunds in this manner.

Selig said the company discovered the fraud when an employee found evidence of an order that Urich had deleted from the company’s records.

In addition to her prison sentence, Urich was ordered to serve two years of supervised release after her term ends and to pay financial restitution. SerVaas is to receive $271,927 in restitution and Chubb Insurance, which covered most of SerVaas’ losses, is to receive $500,000.

Indianapolis attorney John L. Tompkins, who represented Urich, said his client has owned up to her actions. “She didn’t try to make excuses. She accepted responsibility,” he said.

Tompkins said Urich intends to pay the ordered restitution though it will be difficult.

“Her current employment is as a bus driver and she’s going to lose that job,” he said.

Bar Keepers Friend was invented in 1882 by Indianapolis chemist George William Hoffman, who made an unexpected discovery after cooking a pot of rhubarb in a tarnished pan. The process of cooking the rhubarb cleaned the tarnish off the pan, and Hoffman discovered it was the oxalic acid in the vegetable that was responsible. Hoffman created an oxalic acid-based cleaner and Bar Keepers Friend was born.

Late business and civic leader Beurt SerVaas, who died in 2014, purchased Bar Keepers Friend from Gisler Polish Corp. in 1956, forming SerVaas Laboratories. The company remains family-owned.

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3 thoughts on “Former SerVaas Laboratories employee sentenced in $772K fraud case

  1. Restitution orders are worthless and never completed…I was a victim of a 5 k cash Burglary plus other personal property including a safe and the two African American subjects were caught , tried and convicted…Subjects originally got probation plus restitution and then violated probation and went to jail..With my cash two used autos were purchased… These autos were impounded by the Indianapolis Police Dept and kept as evidence..This order for restitution was approximately 35 years ago and NO MONEY OR CONTACT INCLUDING FOLLOW UP FROM PROSECUTOR ETC…i CHECKED ON STATUS APPROXIMATELY 5 YEARS OR SO AFTER ORDER AND WAS ADVISED THAT NO FOLLOW UP IS DONE BY THE COURT OR PROSECUTOR… Only penal if any side effect is the judgement is entered and if ever a mortgage or other credit is pursued by the subjects then payment of the judgement may be required but not guaranteed..Apparently the police sold the cars purchased with the stolen money and kept the dollars as nothing was ever received or heard from authorities…RESTITUTION IS A FOR THE PRESS COURT ORDER WITH NO BENEFICIAL RESULTS…A STUDY OF ALL THE RESTITUTION ORDERS NEEDS TO EXIST AND THE FINDINGS WILL SUGGEST THE PUNISHMENT IS FOR THE PUBLIC ONLY AND NO CREDIBLE RESULTS !!!

    1. Good insight Jim. That is an extreme flaw in our legal system. You should have received the proceeds from the sale of those cars.