GREAT FALLS - A woman who admitted embezzling more than $630,000 from a construction company, was sentenced in federal court in Great Falls on Thursday, June 9, 2022.
U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said in a news release that Nicole Ann Lopez, 37, pleaded guilty in March to wire fraud.
Prosecutors alleged that in 2013, M&D Construction hired Lopez as a bookkeeper/accountant for the business. Lopez was given access to M&D’s bank account and was given administrator permission over M&D’s QuickBooks account.
Between January 2017 and January 2020, Lopez reportedly charged more than $630,000 on her personal credit card accounts. Her expenses focused mostly on consumer shopping and travel, and included more than $80,000 on purchases from Amazon, more than $115,000 on general retail purchases, more than $46,000 on clothing, more than $57,000 on travel, more than $34,000 on restaurants, more than $24,000 on beauty products, more than $12,000 on furniture, and more than $7,000 on plastic surgery. None of these purchases was related to M&D’s business operations.
To pay for her personal credit card expenses, Lopez embarked on a scheme to embezzle money from M&D by using her access to M&D’s bank account to direct payments from the M&D business account to her personal credit accounts without the knowledge of or authorization from M&D’s owners.
Between January 2017 and January 2020, Lopez directed 72 payments from M&D to her personal credit accounts and embezzled approximately $632,362.65.
Lopez’s embezzlement scheme was discovered when she bought a small boutique clothing store in downtown Great Falls, and resigned her position at M&D. To replace her, M&D hired a new accounting firm and a review of M&D’s books determined that more than $600,000 was missing. M&D’s accounting firm contacted their bank and learned that the missing money was paid directly to Lopez’s credit card accounts
Chief U.S. District Judge Brian Morris presided and sentenced Lopez to two and a half years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. She was also ordered to pay $611,665.22 in restitution.