SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. - A Spokane Valley woman pleaded guilty to stealing over $88,000 from Greater Spokane County Meals on Wheels.
Michelle Ferrell, 59, pleaded guilty to wire fraud, for spending thousands of dollars of operational money on herself between 2013 and 2018. Ferrell was a bookkeeper at Greater Spokane County Meals on Wheels, a separate location from Meals on Wheels downtown Spokane.
As a bookkeeper for the organization, Ferrell had access to bank accounts, debit cards, and payroll system. While employed, Ferrell frequently used the organization's funds and bank accounts to pay for her unauthorized personal expenses, including mortgage, utility, and property tax payments on her residence, and to electronically transfer funds to herself and her businesses.
Additionally, Ferrell, who was responsible for paying the organization's quarterly payroll taxes to the IRS, frequently underpaid the payroll taxes, or failed to file tax returns at all, and then satisfied Meals on Wheels' internal accounting records to reflect that it had paid the full amount. When the organization discovered the fraud, it was required to file corrected returns with the IRS, resulting in Meals on Wheels owing the IRS an additional over $120,000 in back payroll taxes, not including penalties or interest for late payment, which are still being assessed by the IRS.
A judge accepted her plea and a sentencing is scheduled for May. The wire fraud charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, up to three years of court supervision after release, and restitution. Additionally, as part of the plea agreement, Ferrell has agreed to the United States' forfeiture of her residence in Spokane Valley, because it represents the proceeds of the fraud.
Meals on Wheels, which is part of a nationwide Meals on Wheels America organization operating throughout the nation, relies on government funding and private donations to provide over 1,000 meals each day to elderly and disabled residents of Spokane County.
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